Eleven indicted for hazmat explosion in California

By Land Line staff | Friday, August 21, 2015

Nine individuals and two companies in California were indicted on Wednesday, Aug. 19, for numerous charges ranging from conspiracy to dispose of hazardous waste to causing great bodily injury or death by emitting an air contaminant, according to U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.

Green Compass Environmental Solutions LLC (Green Compass), Santa Clara Waster Water Company (SCWWC) and nine SCWWC officials and employees were investigated after an explosion of a vacuum cargo tank trailer containing hazardous waste last November. More than 1,000 gallons of chemicals spilled, caused a fire and resulted in several explosions.

People within one mile of SCWWC were evacuated and those within a three-mile radius were given shelter-in-place orders. Highway 126 and an elementary were also shut down. Dozens were treated for possible exposure. Two SCWWC employees and three firefighters were hurt. The firefighters who were hurt went on disability leave as a result.

Investigators found that SCWWC stored more hazardous materials than it was permitted. SCWWC officials tried to hide the excess material by relocating it to an off-site, unsecured truck just before an inspection. Hazardous materials were also disposed of through a wastewater pipeline to the city’s sewage plant and by trailers to a landfill.

The nine SCWWC executives and managers who were indicted were Douglas Edwards, chairman of the board; William Mitzel, chief executive officer; Charles Mundy, vice president-environmental health safety and facility operations; Dean Poe, vice president-oil and gas sales; Brock Gustin William Baker, operations manager; Marlene Faltemier, human resources manager; David Wirsing, transportation manager; Mark Avila, supervisor, and Kenneth Griffin, shift supervisor.

  • Charges filed under the indictment include:
  • Conspiracy to dispose of hazardous waste;
  • Impeding enforcement;
  • Failure to warn of a serious concealed danger;
  • Disposal of hazardous waste;
  • Handling a hazardous waste with a reckless disregard;
  • Withholding information regarding a substantial danger to public safety;
  • Filing a false or forged instrument;
  • Causing great bodily injury or death by emitting an air contaminant; and
  • Dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.
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