CHICKASHA, Okla. (KFOR) – A company that is accused of illegally disposing hand sanitizer in multiple locations in Grady County is being fined more than $6 million.

Attention turned to Bordwine Development, Inc. earlier this month following a massive fire at the old Chickasha Manufacturing building.

Chickasha Manufacturing Fire
The remains of the Chickasha Manufacturing Center following a massive, sanitizer-fueled fire. Image KFOR

After fire crews were called to the 100,000-square-foot facility, they found thousands of pallets of hand sanitizer being stored inside and outside of the building.

“We’re looking in the neighborhood of 1.5 to 2 million gallons of 75% alcohol-based hand sanitizer burning,” said Tony Samaniego, the Chickasha Fire Chief. “Alcohol is flammable, very flammable, especially in that concentration.”

As the fire became the talk of the town in Chickasha, authorities with the Department of Environmental Quality say they had already been looking into allegations surrounding Bordwine Development.

On July 19, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality received a complaint that Bordwine Development, Inc. was “receiving semi-truck loads of hand sanitizer and dumping the sanitizer on the ground” at the former Chickasha Manufacturing building.

Two days later, DEQ received a second complaint that the company was dumping and burying “several loads of hand sanitizer and recalled hand sanitizer” at another property in Ninnekah.

The next day, DEQ investigators went to one of the Bordwine properties to look into the allegations.

According to court documents, investigators saw several pallets of hand sanitizer and also spotted a “large open pit” with liquid standing in the pit. They also noted “disturbed soil near the warehouse building, loose bottles of hand sanitizer on the ground around the building and drive areas,” and other pallets on the ground.

On July 28, DEQ personnel went to the former Chickasha Manufacturing building to investigate the claims.

“DEQ personnel observed Respondents’ employees using a loader/backhoe to load un-palletized hand sanitizer bottles into an open top semi-truck trailer, then crushing the bottles and removing the crushed plastic into another container while allowing the liquid hand sanitizer to drain out of the semi-truck trailer onto the ground,” documents state.

On Aug. 7, the agency learned of the fire at the former Chickasha Manufacturing building.

The next day, personnel went to a drainage ditch near the facility and noted “dead vegetation for approximately seven hundred twenty-five (725) feet and could smell hand sanitizer in the ditch.”

Two days after DEQ learned that Bordwine was storing additional pallets of hand sanitizer at another property in Chickasha, there was a fire reported at that facility.

The Administrative Compliance Order states that investigators found 28 totes, approximately 8,400 gallons, and 20 to 30 pallets loaded with hand sanitizer.

“No evidence of attempts to comply with applicable regulations governing storage, handling, or recycling of hazardous waste were observed DEQ personnel also observed two Waste Connections poly carts (trash cans), one containing empty plastic bottles and one with bottles containing a clear liquid. The poly carts were observed next to a tote with a funnel in the top that had two empty bottles upside down, apparently draining into the tote,” court documents state.

DEQ found that Bordwine failed to make sure that hand sanitizer, which is considered hazardous waste, was properly stored, discharged, or disposed of. The report states that Bordwine also didn’t have a proper permit to store, treat, or dispose of hazardous waste.

“Respondents failed to maintain and operate a facility in a manner that minimizes the possibility of a release of hazardous waste to the air, soil, or surface water which could threaten human health or the environment,” the report states.

As a result, Bordwine will no longer be able to “transfer, transport, donate, sell, or otherwise make hand sanitizer.” The company also has 15 days to provide a compliance plan to lawfully ship and dispose of all hand sanitizer their possession.

Also, Bordwine will need to provide an action plan to remediate the discharge of the hand sanitizer at the three sites.

In all, DEQ says it is fining Bordwine $6,653,850 in penalties. The company has 60 days to pay the amount to the DEQ.

Last week, Bordwine’s attorney, Peter Scimeca, provided KFOR with the following statement:

“Mr. Bordwine and his company are addressing various concerns raised in the OKDEQ administrative Order and abiding by its orders.  He continues, even after authorities executed a search warrant for over five hours at this business,  to work with federal, state and local authorities to solve the problem of how to safely and lawfully dispose of the remaining hand sanitizer being stored in and around Chickasha.  He plans to file an answer and request a hearing in the OKDEQ administrative proceeding modifying the terms of the Emergency Order that addresses a major oversite by all branches of Government involved.  Recycling hand sanitizer, which is what Mr. Bordwine and his company were doing at each site, does not require hazardous waste permits and protocols for transportation, storage and recycling.   Don’t take my word for it, just look at the attached EPA letter dated June 24, 2021 from Kim Kirkland, Chief, Waste Characterization Branch, that addresses permits and protocols needed for the recycling or disposal of hand sanitizer.  The June 24, 2021 letter states ‘In summary, when recycled, hand sanitizer is exempt from hazardous waste regulations and does not have to ship on a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest’. The fire that burned  in Chickasha on August 7, 2022 was a tragic accident for the town, Mr. Bordwine and his Company.  Nobody lost more than he did in the fire.  He is working day and night to solve problems.  He asks for the Government agencies to come together and help his company move forward and solve this problem.”