SALT LAKE CITY, MAY 31 -- U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh announced the first federal felony environmental prosecution in Utah today, charging a defunct petroleum disposal company with illegally burning, dumping and storing hazardous waste, including surplus napalm bombs.
Prosecutors alleged that a puddle of waste from the company was so noxious it melted the soles of a passing jogger's shoes.
"An environmental crime is like a robbery or assault against all of us," Thornburgh said. The indictment provides a clear signal "to environmental profiteers seeking to improperly cash in on the growing waste-handling business," he said.
The 12-count indictment alleges that Steven F. Self of Fallbrook, Calif., and his defunct Ekotek Inc. knowingly ignored federal environmental laws and "duped environmentally conscious businesses into believing that waste materials were being properly disposed of."
The indictment alleges conspiracy to violate the clean air, water and resources conservation and recovery acts and involves charges that Self and others illegally burned and discharged solvents, oils, grease and contaminated runoff, then concealed the violations by falsifying manifests and logs.
Messages left with Self's attorney in Utah went unanswered.
Before Ekotek was shut down by state regulators in October 1987, residents of nearby homes complained of malodorous smoke coming from the site. Prosecutors said a 17-year-old boy reported his shoe began to "bubble and disintegrate" after he accidentally stepped in a puddle while running past the site.
State Department of Health officials said tens of thousands of gallons of wastes have leaked or been dumped into the ground and have contaminated nearby homes.
The indictment alleges that in July 1986, Self arranged to accept two napalm bombs for "testing, storage and treatment" from the Navy and later told state officials they had been properly disposed of. State explosives experts had to haul the bombs away the following year.