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PA ENFORCEMENT WRAP-UP

Release Date: 10/28/96
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PA ENFORCEMENT WRAP-UP

FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1996

ENFORCEMENT WRAP-UP

OWNER AND TWO FIRMS CHARGED WITH RCRA VIOLATIONS

On Oct. 18, John Robert Cooke of Houston, Texas, owner of Petroleum Distributors Inc., and R.H.T. Investments in Houston, was arrested and indicted on two felony counts of illegally storing and disposing of hazardous wastes in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Both companies were also indicted on the same charges. The indictment alleges that Cooke used both companies to purchase hazardous waste containing vinyl acetate and naphtha from companies located in Louisiana. The waste was allegedly stored on property owned by United States Environmental Solutions Inc. in Houston from Oct. 1, 1994 through Jan. 20, 1995 and then disposed of there on Jan. 20, 1995. The case was initiated through the Texas State-Federal Environmental Task Force and was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center.

FAILURE TO REPORT SPILL LEADS TO FELONY INDICTMENT

On Oct. 17, Fred E. Garner, Jr. of Lenexa, Kan.; Andre Rober of Leawood, Kan.; Marc W. Peterson of Kansas City, Mo.; and HCI Chemtech Distribution Inc., of Chesterfield, Mo.; were named in a six-count federal felony indictment arising from their alleged failure to properly respond to a spill of 20,000 gallons of highly caustic sodium hydroxide from Chemtech's Kansas City plant in September 1995. Sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, is a strong alkali that can kill living tissue on contact. All four defendants in the case are charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); one count of violating CERCLA; and one count of violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). Chemtech is additionally charged with single counts of violating the CWA, and making false statements to the United States. Rober and Peterson are also charged with single counts of making false statements to the government. If convicted as charged, Rober and Peterson could receive maximum sentences of up to 16 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1 million, Garner could be subject to a maximum of 11 years in prison and/or $750,000 in fines, and Chemtech could be subject to a maximum fine of $2.5 million. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with assistance from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department.

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