C6 Zero founder broke regulations in other states; Marengo plant had October fire before explosion

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 5:48 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - About a month before an explosion Thursday morning injured at least 10 people, documents from the city of Marengo show firefighters spent around two hours responding to another fire at the building C6-Zero uses as a facility.

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team also received documents showing regulators in two different states found the company’s founder, Howard Brand, violated state laws around solid waste regulations. According to documents, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined Howard Brand $27,500 in 2017 because he didn’t receive permission from the state agency to dispose used asphalt roofing shingles under a different company called BrandLich Holdings LLC.

Mark Corallo, who is a spokesperson for C6-Zero, originally told our i9 Investigative Team the fine was appropriately adjudicated and dismissed by the court in an email. However, a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told i9 the fine was paid in January 2022 in full.

Corallo, then, told i9 the fine was paid.

About two years later, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Brand along with another man violated the state’s Solid Wastes Disposal Sites and Facilities Act and Regulations Pertaining to Solid Waste Sites and Facilities. It is unclear if the company, which was called Brand Technologies, received a consequence for having unrecyclable material like 1,300 tons of waste asphalt shingles and other roofing debris on the ground.

The company spokesperson said there were no fines or penalties and this was a personal matter involving Howard Brand. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment didn’t return any of our i9 Team’s phone calls.

C6-Zero said it can reduce America’s carbon footprint through turning old shingles, like on a roof, into oil. The company said in a video its process works like a washing machine where a solution is added to a shingle and placed into a machine where it gets oil, sand and fiberglass.

Howard Brand, who is C6-Zero’s founder, said the process he used to create oil took six years and investments worth millions to develop in blog posts online. He said regulators created “mistruths” around his process.

“Regulatory agencies do not always understand new technologies,” Brand wrote. “Not understanding is human nature and assuming the worst is unfortunately another human trait as well.”

Mark Corallo, who is C6-Zero’s spokesperson, didn’t respond to i9′s question about Brand’s specific issues with regulators.

C6-Zero’s website said the process it uses is proprietary and is patent-pending. But, Corallo said the patent is approved and awaiting final issuance from the United State Patents and Trademarks Office.

According to officials, around 30 people were inside the building during the explosion. As of Friday, nobody was killed in the explosion. A UIHC spokesperson said about half of the patients it treated for injuries related to the explosion were discharged and the rest were admitted to the hospital.

Most of the injured were described as “minor to moderate” by Dr. Theresa Brennan with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, with conditions that needed treatment including burns, trauma, and cuts and scrapes. One patient was classified by Brennan as falling into the more serious end of the spectrum of injuries in their procedures for a “mass casualty event.”

Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said the city learned C6-Zero was using chemicals after the first fire in October. According to the Marengo Fire Department, a malfunctioning machine created a fire on October 25th and it took 19 firefighters around two hours to extinguish the fire.

But, C6-Zero’s spokesperson said the fire was caused by a minor welding accident during routine maintenance in an email to i9. The spokesperson said there was no damage and immediately put out.

Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team hasn’t heard back from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which regulates solid waste and hazardous chemicals.