The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Maryland's only peat processing company to stop a mining procedure it uses on a Garrett County bog that the state and environmentalists are fighting to preserve.
The Garrett Processing and Packaging Corp., which has been removing peat in the area for 22 years, and on the parcel in dispute since last year, was ordered to stop harrowing the peat because it does not have a permit and is in violation of the Clean Water Act.
William Walsh, a Cumberland attorney who represents the company, said the EPA argues that the harrowing process used by the company in raking the peat to let it dry before removing it constitutes dredging and filling of a wetland.
"We really think they are getting awfully technical to say leaving it there for a few days is filling in a wetland," said Walsh.
The EPA order could jeopardize the peat operation unless the company can obtain a permit or find an alternative method of harvesting it.
"It's going to make it a little hard to get it dry," said Kenneth Buckel, manager of the company. "I'm going to have to experiment a little."
The Sierra Club filed suit in April to prevent the company from mining on the 470-acre, 18,000-year-old bog that the company purchased at an auction last year, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is attempting to buy the track in order to preserve it.
Buckel said that the company, which employs about five people during the summer mining season, plans to mine only about 70 acres of the parcel. So far, it has begun removing peat from about a dozen acres.