WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Texas man was indicted by a federal grand jury for criminal violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced today. Dennis Rodriguez and his company North American Waste Assistance, LLC (NAWA), located in El Paso, Texas, are each charged with one count of knowingly making a material false statement or representations in manifest used to transport hazardous waste, two counts of transporting hazardous waste to an un-permitted site, and two counts of disposing of hazardous waste without a permit.
“The defendant in this case allegedly put profits before safety by illegally transporting hazardous waste and taking steps to conceal the fact that the waste was hazardous,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department takes violations of the laws that protect our environment very seriously and will prosecute criminal violations to the full extent of the law.”
According to the indictment, NAWA was involved in the handling and transportation of hazardous waste and Rodriguez was a managing partner of NAWA. Rodriguez and NAWA were hired to dispose of in excess of one hundred fifty-five gallon drums of construction-related waste. Approximately 84 of the drums contained expired petroleum-based concrete curing compound, which is an ignitable hazardous waste when disposal becomes necessary.
“Proper disposal of hazardous waste is vital to protecting human health and the environment,” EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. “EPA will vigorously pursue this case and others like it to ensure that those who violate federal environmental laws do not gain an unfair economic advantage over responsible companies.”
The indictment alleges that on or about March 27, 2002, Rodriguez and NAWA transported the drums using several Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifests that stated that the drums contained “Non-RCRA, Non-Regulated” waste. Rodriguez then made arrangements to transport the drums, for disposal, to landfills-in Avalon, Texas, and Walterboro, South Carolina-that were not permitted under RCRA to accept hazardous waste. The drums were disposed of at the facilities without a permit issued pursuant to RCRA to dispose of hazardous waste.
If convicted, Rodriguez-who had his initial appearance yesterday-faces a maximum sentence of two years on the false statement charge, five years for each unlawful transportation charge, and five years for each un-permitted disposal charge. Also, Rodriguez and NAWA may each be fined up to $50,000 for each violation.
This case was investigated by Special Agents George de la Santos and Edward Padilla of the EPA, with the assistance of Rick Talamantes, of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Senior Trial Attorney Jennifer Whitfield, of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Miller are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely a formal way of bringing charges against an individual or a corporation. All persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty.