Iowan fined $80,000 for burning thousands of railroad ties

Image from court filings of burning railroad ties on John Goldsmith's property on Aug. 12, 2018, a day after the fire was set.Photo: Iowa Attorney General's Office

(Undated) -- A judge has ordered a Sergeant Bluff, Iowa Iowa man to pay an $80,000 dollar fine, for illegally burning thousands of railroad ties. John Goldsmith told the Iowa D-N-R he intended to burn thousands of railroad ties on his property. The D-N-R told him multiple times since the year 2000 not to. Goldsmith was also accused of barricading his property to prevent authorities from getting on site. The railroad ties burned for three days in August of 2018.

John Goldsmith has also been given a permanent injunction from violating solid-waste and open-burning laws.

 Chief Judge Duane E. Hoffmeyer of the Third Judicial District warned Goldsmith that he could face contempt charges and possibly jail time if he disobeys the judge’s order. 

“Goldsmith financially benefited greatly by this fire taking place. Goldsmith took little action to have it put out. Goldsmith has violated DNR guidelines in the past, did so in August 2018, and yet a burn event still took place on September 30, 2018,” Hoffmeyer said in his ruling. “This behavior is a violation of the law and Goldsmith needs to be ordered to pay the maximum civil penalty and an injunction entered to protect the community, serve as deterrence for future illegal violations, and to punish financially a seemingly indifferent, confrontational behavior.”  

According to the lawsuit, Goldsmith called a DNR employee on Aug. 7, 2018, and said he had an estimated 30,000 railroad ties on his property and intended to burn some of them. He said that disposing the ties would cost significantly more than his property was worth. 

Goldsmith also said that he had barricaded his property to prevent local authorities from getting on site. The employee informed Goldsmith that the burning would be in violation of the law.  

The burning began on Aug. 11 and continued through Aug. 14. Goldsmith also threatened that he would let out his three pit bulls if anybody entered onto his property in an attempt to put out the fire, according to the lawsuit.

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