News Briefs

EPA orders Kansas company to stop polluting wetlands, remediate 3.7 acres

By: - September 27, 2022 5:25 pm
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Michael Skillman, owner of Victory Excavating in Coffey County, to remove debris dumped in at least 3.7 acres of wetlands near the Neosho River in violation of the federal law. (Getty Images)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Michael Skillman, owner of Victory Excavating in Coffey County, to remove debris dumped in at least 3.7 acres of wetlands near the Neosho River in violation of the federal law. (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — A Kansas excavating company in Coffey County was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean at least 3.7 acres tainted by debris dumped in wetlands adjacent to a tributary of the Neosho River.

The federal agency directed Michael Skillman, owner of Victory Excavating in New Strawn, to stop disposing of waste in the wetlands. The compliance order from the EPA mandated removal of debris and completion of a plan to restore the site.

The illegal dumping allegedly continued after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Kansas City, Missouri, issued a cease-and-desist order in October 2021.

The EPA said Skillman had a “history” of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act.

In June 2021, the EPA reached a settlement with Burlington attorney Thomas Robrahn and Skillman’s construction company to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act within the Neosho River. Under the settlement, Robrahn and the company agreed to pay a $60,000 civil penalty.

EPA said Robrahn and Skillman placed 400 cubic yards of shattered concrete into the river adjacent to Robrahn’s property without obtaining a permit. The work impacted 240 feet of the river in a section with populations of Neosho Madtom, a federally listed threatened fish species.

As part of the settlement, the parties agreed to remove the concrete and restore the site to comply with the Clean Water Act.

In 2018, Skillman also was accused of engaging in a conflict of interest by using his chairmanship of the Coffey County House Authority board to direct $36,000 in housing authority funding, without public notice or bidding, to a project his company was involved with in Waverly.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

MORE FROM AUTHOR