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Old 11-05-2011, 04:41 PM   #1
AlFulchino
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Default Death by Grapes

did not know where to put this story...but it bears reading because other items around the garden could be of some similar nature

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http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2011/11/03/family-sued-after-second-serious-injury-from-buried-grape-residue

Family sued after second serious injury from buried grape residue
By Ross Courtney
Yakima Herald-Republic

PROSSER -- A farming family responsible for the improper disposal of grape waste that cost a teenage boy his legs 15 years ago is now accused of injuring another man in the same way.

Benjamin Fox, 32, has told authorities he fell into a pit of hidden and smoldering grape pomace, the slushy mash of skins and twigs left over after juice is pressed, and suffered second- and third-degree burns on land previously owned by Whitney Farms Inc. of Prosser.

"He has very little sensation in his legs and virtually no sensation in his right foot," his brother, Cameron Fox, said Thursday.

Benjamin Fox did not return an interview request left with his brother.

Benjamin Fox, 32, filed a lawsuit in June against Whitney Farms, claiming it is responsible for the injuries he suffered March 1 and had not disclosed the hazard when it sold the land to his family in 2010.

Whitney Farms owned the property in 1996 when then-16-year-old Phillip Hickle slipped into a smoldering pit of grape waste, burning his legs so badly that they had to be amputated.

"It actually happened again," said Grandview attorney Rick Kimbrough, who filed the lawsuit in Benton County Superior Court.

A man who answered the phone at Whitney Farms declined comment Thursday and hung up before giving his name. However, in court records the farm denied responsibility because it didn't own the property at the time of Fox's accident.

Also represented by Kimbrough, Hickle sued Whitney Farms and two fruit processors and settled out of court with all three parties, while state authorities began regulating pomace as hazardous waste.

Hickle died in 2006 at age 25. It was unclear how, according to a Tri-City Herald archive story.

When spread out, grape waste often is used by farmers to augment soil.

However, Whitney Farms dumped the waste into piles or pits, robbing it of oxygen and letting it smolder as it decomposed, according to Fox's lawsuit and state authorities. Temperatures during some tests registered up to 500 degrees.

Health officials for years told Phillip Whitney to spread out the grape waste, said Rick Dawson, a land-use supervisor with the Benton-Franklin Health District.

In 2005, the agency terminated the family's land-application permit and asked Benton County prosecutors to file charges to address "an alarming disregard for compliance," according to the state Department of Ecology records.

Prosecutors filed criminal charges in 2007, but then asked that the case be dismissed, Dawson said. He said he was unsure why.

"As the health department we believe we did everything we could about this situation," Dawson said.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said his office dropped the criminal case because state law only prohibits improperly storing solid waste, which they could not prove because grape pomace is often valuable as a soil additive. The recent injury does not change his opinion, he said.

"The statute doesn't prohibit something dangerous on the property, it prohibits solid waste," he said.

Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing a cleanup of the property that is nearly complete.

The federal agency spread out 11,000 cubic yards of debris over 20 acres to prevent it from smoldering, said Cameron Fox. It also extracted 2,500 buried tires.

Also, the Ecology Department has formally asked the farm to disclose other potential waste sites. The family appealed to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, which has scheduled a hearing for February, said Joye Redfield-Wilder, a department spokeswoman.

A trial on Fox's lawsuit is scheduled for June 2012, but his attorney, Kimbrough, expects that to be delayed as more defendants are added.



* Ross Courtney can be reached at 509-930-8798 or rcourtney@yakimaherald.com.

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Old 11-05-2011, 05:05 PM   #2
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Al thats an interesting story but leaves a few questions. Was the boy trespassing where he should not have been? What if it would have been a swamp or quick sand on the farmers property?

I wonder why the farmer created a pit for them or was it just an open pit he was filling over time by throwing waste in it. Driving around today I saw many large piles of grape skins along the highway in front of vineyards. I am sure they will be spread out. Some wineries spread them out as soon as they fill there spreaders up.

Also was this farmer blatantly disregarding the law? Whats with all the buried tires?

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Old 11-05-2011, 05:11 PM   #3
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Interesting story. Thanks for posting!

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Old 11-05-2011, 05:17 PM   #4
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Dan, it doesnt matter unfortunately if anyone is trespassing on your land or your house for that matter. They could be breaking into your house and break their leg and still sue you in this country!!! I had no idea compost piles could get that hot!!!!

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Old 11-05-2011, 05:24 PM   #5
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They sure can get warm. I have seen the steam coming off of them. Not sure if it's fermenting or not, or would that be basically the same as composting in this situation.

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Old 11-05-2011, 09:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlFulchino View Post

From a Missouri State Extension Bulletin regarding compost piles:

"The optimum temperature in an active compost pile is 135 to 140 degrees F. Compost piles occasionally reach temperatures as high as 170 degrees F — hot enough to kill some of the microorganisms. This usually happens when excessive amounts of wet, high-nitrogen materials are added to the pile."

500 degrees is a long ways from 170 degrees !!!!!

Also found:

"Plant-digesting microbes operate in a temperature range of 70 degrees F to 140 degrees F, but breakdown occurs very slowly at the lower temperatures. Well-managed compost rapidly breaks down in summer when compost temperatures quickly reach 120 degrees to 130 degrees F. If summer heat plus the heat produced by active microorganisms causes the temperature of the plant mass to exceed 160 degrees F, the microbes will die."

According to the last sentence of that quote, if the microbes die above 160, they are no longer "active" therefore, no longer creating heat.

If they were burying that many tires, who knows what else was in those piles besides grape pomace....
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:42 AM   #7
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the heat was probably related to spontaneous combustion. in this case the pomace was burning. live coals are produced much higher temps can be reached.

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Old 11-06-2011, 08:11 AM   #8
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interesting subject because if the temps were not as high as written in the article, the defense team would have been all over that like a fruit fly on open fruit

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