Record Penalties Sought in Tustin Toxics Discovery

Times Staff Writer

Prosecutors are seeking a record $150,000 in penalties against the Larry Fricker Co. for violations of state toxic waste control laws.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, the county district attorney's office alleged that the agricultural products firm left toxic pesticides and fertilizer components in the open air on a lot in Tustin for a year.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Diane Stavenhagen-Kadletz said that if the penalties being sought in that incident are imposed, they would be the largest of their kind in county history.

Fricker was moving its warehouse operations to Anaheim when the incident occurred, she said. Thirty deteriorated, rusting barrels of pesticide and a mound of fertilizer components were found by firefighters who investigated the site, on Newport Avenue near Main Street, after nearby residents complained of odors.

"It had been there for more than a year," Stavenhagen-Kadletz said. "It was close to apartment buildings, and neighbors complained about the noxious fumes."

The substances, she said, were toxic Systox, a trademark for demeton, and Di-Syston, a trademark for disulfoton.

Last fall, attorneys for Fricker agreed to a complicated settlement of an earlier lawsuit. In it, the firm agreed to pay up to $150,000 in fines, based on a percentage of business profits from 1985-87.

But Fricker failed to turn over tax records by an Oct. 1 deadline, thereby forfeiting any right to pay a fine lower than $150,000, Stavenhagen-Kadletz contended in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Fricker attorney Peter Freeman said the failure to file the tax records was inadvertent. "We have been working on getting our tax filings completed," he said. "We agreed we would provide the tax forms by Oct. 1. I let them know we were having trouble getting the returns completed."

Business Losses Cited

Freeman said Fricker suffered business losses for the three years involved, so no fine is required.

In 1985, Fricker's Anaheim warehouse was the site of a fire that sent a noxious cloud into the air and forced evacuation of 7,500 people. No one was seriously injured. In separate litigation, Fricker is contesting federal allegations that it should pay $250,000 for cleanup costs after the fire.

Freeman said he will claim in court that, because law enforcement officials have concluded the fire was started by an arsonist, no reimbursement is required.

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