Owner of Chemical Plant Arrested

The owner of the Saticoy chemical plant that erupted in a toxic blaze last week was arrested Tuesday by an investigator from the Ventura County district attorney's office on suspicion of illegally disposing of hazardous waste.

Benjamin L. Adams, 40, owner of Pacific Intermediates, was arrested at noon in front of the company's charred plant east of Ventura, which he said he was visiting for the first time since the April 10 fire.

He was taken to Ventura County Jail and released on his own recognizance without having to post bail, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia W. Strickland. No charges have been filed yet, although Strickland said charges of illegally disposing of hazardous waste and knowingly endangering the public safety will probably be filed soon.

The two felony counts carry a maximum fine of $100,000 each and up to three years in prison.

"It's something that appears to have been going on for some time," said Strickland, whose environmental protection unit began investigating the company in December.

Adams, who said he had been in the Philippines since the fire, was inspecting damage at the plant Tuesday.

"This is the first time I've seen this," he said. "Obviously, I'm pretty upset."

District attorney's investigator Jack Hughes, who was also at the site, quickly escorted Adams away.

Strickland said charges would probably not be filed until firefighters complete their investigation into the cause of the blaze.

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