GRAYLING -- Jerry Balmes wants his property cleaned up and made ready to sell.

He owns the closed Skyline Ski and Country Club just south of Grayling, real estate he said is burdened by an illegal pile of street sweepings, as recently cited by state officials.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in December issued a warning letter to James Hilbrecht, owner of Northern Power Sweeping in Grayling, about unauthorized solid waste disposal at Balmes' resort. It must be cleaned up and taken to a regulated landfill, according to state law, said John Ozoga, DEQ environmental engineer.

"You get sand and litter, oil and grease, leakage and runoff," Ozoga said. "It's on the low end of environmental impacts, but it is regulated."

It's more of an aesthetic issue for the site in Crawford County's Beaver Creek Township, with minimal impacts to soil and groundwater, Ozoga said.

Balmes allowed Northern Power Sweeping to dump the street debris on the property several summers ago, he said.

"I thought he was just dumping sand," Balmes said.

Balmes said he called the DEQ once he realized such dumping amounted to a state violation. The agency also will investigate whether the company has other illegal dump sites in the area, Ozoga said.

Hilbrecht said there aren't any similar sites and he plans to clean up the pile of street sweepings in the spring. He didn't realize the material would cause a problem and contends he didn't know he was breaking the law.

"I put it up there because my thinking at the time was that it was OK. It is sand and the resort needed the fill. It saved me a little bit of time and I didn't think it would do any harm," he said.

An initial cleanup deadline of Feb. 1 was extended for winter conditions, but without action when the snow melts, Hilbrecht could face up to a $500 fine, Ozoga said.

State records show Hilbrecht's company was incorporated in 1997 and contracts with county road commissions and the Michigan Department of Transportation to clean area roads. He dumps collected sand and debris not at a landfill, but where contractors tell him, often at county or state garages, Hilbrecht said.

"Any contractor that performs work for MDOT is expected to adhere to all state laws," said Bob Felt, MDOT spokesman.

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