Two officers and an employee of an Anaheim chemical company, which was cited last year for illegally storing hazardous wastes, were arrested Thursday on more than 300 counts of violating hazardous waste laws.
Anaheim Police Sgt. Ted Labahn said the arrests of Jay Richard Cades, president of Dixco-Diversified Chemical Sales Co.; Elan Jane Aguilar, a corporate officer, and Frank Thomas Damski, a company driver, culminated a three-month investigation into the firm’s waste disposal practice.
Cades and Aguilar were arrested at 8:45 a.m. at their Anaheim homes, and Damski was arrested at the company plant at 1014 E. South St., which is in a commercial-industrial area.
The two corporate officers were booked on suspicion of 277 counts of violating state laws regulating storage of hazardous waste, Labahn said. Cades and Aguilar also were booked on 15 counts of concealing company records, 14 counts of carrying hazardous waste and two counts of unlawful disposal of waste.
In addition, Cades and Aguilar are accused of violating city zoning ordinances and fire safety regulations. Damski was booked on one count each of illegally transporting and disposing of hazardous waste.
Labahn said all the violations are misdemeanors with a maximum jail sentence of one year each.
Released From Jail
He said this was the first time Anaheim police have initiated criminal proceedings against a company for assertedly violating state laws governing hazardous waste disposal.
“We began this investigation last October when some (Fire Department) officials felt it was perhaps time to look into criminal activity (at the plant),” Labahn said.
All three suspects posted bail and were released from the Anaheim City Jail about two hours after their arrest. Cades was released on $150,000 bail and Aguilar on $50,000. Damski was released on $2,500 bail. They are scheduled for arraignment next month.
The 277 counts constitute the number of days Dixco-Diversified allegedly stored hazardous waste illegally. Labahn said the company could face fines totaling $14 million, and the three accused people could be fined another $564,000 in all.
Cades and Aguilar failed to return calls made to the plant following their release. Calls to Cades’ Anaheim home also were unanswered.
This was not the first time Dixco-Diversified has been cited for violations at the Anaheim plant. On April 25, the company was cited for illegally storing “acids, solvents and other caustic agents” without a state permit, although no criminal charges were lodged against the firm.
That citation was issued after Orange County health officials made a surprise inspection and discovered that about 200 metal drums stored at the plant were leaking hazardous waste. The health officials had initially tried to inspect the plant as early as January of last year, but company officials had refused to admit them.
Then on Oct. 18, Anaheim city fire officials, using a search warrant, closed the plant after finding illegally stored hazardous materials which one official said posed a “great potential threat” in the area.
Licensed to Transport Wastes
Robert E. Merryman, director of the county Health Care Agency’s division of environmental health, said that at the time Dixco-Diversified had a license to transport hazardous wastes but not to store or recycle them.
Merryman also said tests conducted after the October closing revealed that the soil at the plant had been contaminated.
“But the contamination had not reached the water supply,” he said.
Dixco-Diversified was later allowed to reopen after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitored a cleanup of the site. However, that episode opened the Anaheim police investigation that ended with Thursday’s arrests.
Orange County supervisors have been studying the county’s hazardous waste problems for the past year. An assistant to Supervisor Ralph B. Clark, whose district includes Anaheim, said the arrests could open the door to more investigations.
Bob Malone, Clark’s executive assistant, said the arrests “will probably lead to additional investigations. This should be a warning to other companies that they better clean up their act.”