Eleven Defendants Indicted After Explosion of Vacuum Cargo Tank Trailer
On August 19, 2015, Green Compass Environmental Solutions LLC (Green Compass), the Santa Clara Waste Water Company (SCWWC), and nine SCWWC officials/employees were indicted by the Ventura County Superior Court, Ventura, California. The charges were 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.
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 & Facility Operations; Dean Poe, Vice President - Oil & 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.
On November 18, 2014, DOT OIG, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office, and the Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), began investigating SCWWC after the explosion of a vacuum cargo tank trailer containing hazardous waste in Santa Paula, California. The explosion caused over 1,000 gallons of chemicals to spill, which resulted in a fire that set off a series of explosions involving hazardous materials. Toxic smoke blanketed the area around SCWWC. Authorities ordered mandatory evacuations for everyone within one mile of SCWWC, and shelter-in-place orders for everyone within a three mile radius, as well as the closure of a local elementary school and Highway 126. Dozens of people were examined and treated at local hospitals for exposure. Two SCWWC employees and three Santa Paula firefighters who responded to the blast were hurt. The firefighters entered SCWWC without any special protection after being told it was only a sewage explosion. All three firefighters went out on disability leave and the fire engine was a total loss.
The investigation has focused on the identification of hazardous materials, the falsification of independent laboratory testing results that were submitted to regulatory authorities by SCWWC employees, the filing/recording of false documents with a government agency and conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes.
SCWWC stored hazardous materials for use in the treatment process in excess of the amounts permitted in their hazardous materials and wastes inventory. SCWWC officials directed the transfer of these hazardous materials offsite to an unsecured truck lot prior to scheduled inspections. On the morning of the explosion, a Defense Logistics Agency contractor had a scheduled inspection of SCWWC and internal "clean-up" efforts were underway. Hazardous materials had been sucked from approximately 20 individual unlabeled chemical totes into a vacuum cargo tank trailer when the explosion occurred. SCWWC also disposed of hazardous waste via: (1) a wastewater pipeline to the City of Oxnard's sewage plant, and (2) trailers to the Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Neither were approved for the disposal of hazardous waste.
We are conducting this investigation with the EPA-CID and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
Note: Indictments, informations, and criminal complaints are only accusations by the Government. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.