Statue maker Woodrow Butterfield, a 72-year-old former city councilman, has been fined more than $17,000 for allowing a powerful acid to leak onto public property.
In West Orange County Municipal Court this week, Butterfield and his two sons, Kenneth and Silias, pleaded no contest to charges that they dumped muriatic acid from Statueland, at 13960 Harbor Blvd., onto adjacent public land. The trio was charged in August with two misdemeanor counts of improperly disposing of hazardous waste, crimes that carry penalties of up to $100,000 and a year in jail, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Gerald G. Johnston.
"I was a little upset that (the district attorney's office) took it so far. I thought (the penalty) was a little high," said Kenneth Irwin Butterfield, 29, who manages the retail statue and fountain shop with his brother, Silas Gregory Butterfield, 32.
"We didn't know it was draining into there, and as soon as we found out about it, we did everything we could to clean it up."
Municipal Judge Daniel J. Didier fined shop owner Woodrow Butterfield $7,000 and assessed additional penalties of $10,000. The judge suspended $5,000 fines for both sons, but placed all three men on three years' probation.
Johnston said he thought the fines were too light.
"I was disappointed. I would have liked to see something tougher," Johnston said. "Mr. Butterfield and his sons had numerous and repeated requests to stop the unlawful conduct."
The Butterfields used the acid to clean the statues and make them appear to be antiques, Johnston said. They then hosed the residual acid and cement onto public property where it created a standing pool 35 feet long by 10 feet across, he said. A sample of the liquid was so acidic it could burn flesh, Johnston said.
After the spill, the family spent $14,000 to test the soil and promised to pay for the eventual cleanup, Kenneth Butterfield said. Since then, the family has abandoned the acid-wash process and started cleaning statues by hand, he added.
Woodrow Butterfield served on the Garden Grove City Council from 1972 to 1974.