Overweight Trucks Face Hefty Fines

Connecticut is getting tough on out-of-state garbage haulers that bring more than 10 million pounds of trash to local waste-to-energy plants each week.

Having no disposal sites in New York City, haulers are carting their loads to waste incinerators in Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere. To save money, some truckers are cramming more and more garbage onto vehicles to make fewer trips. State police officials reportedly are assessing hefty fines to prevent overweight trucks and substandard equipment.

Garbage haulers have always expected a thorough going-over from state troopers and motor vehicle officials at three weigh stations: Greenwich and Danbury, which are close to the New York state line, and in Old Lyme along Route I-95, approximately midway across the extreme southern tier of the state.

However, enforcement efforts have escalated as a result of a serious ep-isode in September. In Wallingford, state police stopped a tractor-trailer truck operated by an independent hauler from New York. Officers discovered that the rig was carrying a 112,000-pound load - about 40 percent overweight - and the driver was fined $15,000. Now, the police patrol the highways with portable scales.

"It's a major problem and we're trying to do something about it," said a state police spokesman. "How would you feel if you were driving on the Turnpike and looked over and saw a truck with sparks flying under its tires because there's too much garbage on the truck? It's a potential nightmare and we see it every day."

More than 100,000 commercial vehicles passed through weigh stations in Connecticut between January and August of this year, according to state sources. The state issues about 100 summonses each day to truckers, and approximately 10 percent are issued to commercial solid waste haulers. A total of $1.6 million worth of citations were issued during this time span.

As Connecticut police officials see it, all overweight trucks are traffic hazards. An accident involving an overweight garbage truck might literally bury cars and drivers under garbage. "We're trying to make sure that this doesn't happen by getting as many of these trucks into compliance as we can," said Sgt. John Duley of the state police.

The police are not limiting their surveillance to major highways. In late September, Trooper David Aflalo led a patrol on local streets near the Bridgeport waste burning plant.

"We can't be everywhere at the same time," he told The New York Times. "Sometimes when the word gets out that we're out here, they'll go park somewhere and try to wait us out."

Trash haulers in New York City and Connecticut say that state police officers in Connecticut are mistreating them. "It's totally insane what they're doing to us," said Sam Anastasio, who manages the Bronx-based Delmar Waste Services. "We're helping to supply Connecticut's energy plants and paying them good money to take our refuse and then they crack down on our trucks and independent drivers. They're stopping our trucks every day and it's getting to the point that it's not worth going to Connecticut."

Portable scales in Bridgeport brought trouble to Sanitary Refuse Inc., a Waterbury industrial waste handler. The state patrol stopped one of the company's trucks and found an overweight violation, as well as several safety flaws, that re-sulted in $12,000 in fines.

Henry Testa, a manager for the company, also believes that the state police were unfairly singling out trash handlers. "[The unsafe, illegal cars driving on the roads] are getting away with it because the police know those guys don't have the money to pay the fines," said Testa. The state police insist that their only desire is to rid the highways of unsafe trucks.

The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority owns and operates four waste-to-energy facilities. Each week about 300 truckloads of garbage from New York City are processed at the Authority's Hartford and Bridgeport plants. The Authority, which includes some 113 cities and towns, also owns and operates recycling facilities, landfills and transfer stations.

Business Ethics. North American Recycling Systems Inc. will be paid in full for the sale of its 18 percent ownership in Adirondack Resource Recovery Associates, a waste-to-energy plant in Hudson Falls, N.Y.

The final payment was held up pending the outcome of criminal charges filed against William L. Nikas, the company's senior vice president and general counsel. A Fulton County jury acquitted Nikas on two misdemeanor charges.

Nikas and the company's chief executive officer were indicted in 1992 on charges that the company offered a job to Nikas - who, at the time, was a town supervisor in Kingsbury, N.Y. - to gain his help in persuading town officials to sign a trash incineration contract with North American.

A jury cleared both men of felony charges in April. Neither of them faces any other charges.