WASHINGTON – The former owner of a road and parking lot painting and striping business in Anchorage, Alaska, was sentenced today for illegally disposing of more than 200,000 pounds of highly flammable hazardous waste in Anchorage, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Karen L. Loeffler, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska.
William Duran Vizzerra, Jr., 43, was sentenced by Chief Judge Ralph R. Beistline to 15 months in prison. In addition, the court ordered Vizzerra to pay $395,319 in restitution to two victims.
Vizzerra pleaded guilty on Aug. 17, 2012 in U.S. District Court in the District of Alaska. Vizzerra was the president, director and part-owner of Precision Pavement Markings Inc. (PPMI), a road and parking lot painting and striping business that operated out of a storage lot in Anchorage from 2006 through 2009. Vizzerra used the storage lot to store hazardous waste, including methyl methacrylate paint and toluene that was used to flush the paint lines, nozzles and sprayers used in his business. Vizzerra ordered employees to dispose of the waste at a local landfill but the employees were turned away because the waste was hazardous. Vizzerra was also told by an environmental services company that it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to properly dispose of the hazardous waste. On approximately Nov. 1, 2009, Vizzerra illegally abandoned approximately 321 55-gallon drums, 179 five-gallon pails and two 200-gallon totes of hazardous waste to avoid the costs of proper disposal. Vizzerra abandoned a total of 204,750 pounds of hazardous waste, all of which was determined to be flammable. The landowners where Vizzerra abandoned the hazardous waste incurred almost $400,000 in clean-up costs.
In November 2010, a citizen reported the abandoned drums to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An investigation led by EPA Criminal Investigation Division agents revealed several hundred 55-gallon drums and smaller containers at the storage lot, some of which were stacked two-high on a trailer and some of which were stored directly on the ground. Many of the drums were marked "waste" or held hazardous markings, such as "flammable" or "flammable liquid." Many were rusted and in decrepit condition or bulging. The investigation revealed that some of the drums were from a prior pavement business of Vizzerra's that had dissolved several years earlier.
Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, hazardous waste, due to its dangerous qualities, may only be disposed of at a licensed treatment, storage or disposal facility. The storage lot Vizzerra used was neither equipped nor permitted for the disposal of hazardous waste. Yet, knowing this, Vizzerra illegally abandoned and disposed of the waste at the lot, which cost the land owner and lease holder $394,062 in clean-up, disposal and legal fees.
“The defendant exposed the environment and the public to hundreds of gallons of hazardous waste. Today’s sentence is an appropriate penalty for this egregious crime against the people and environment of Alaska,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This case shows that we will not tolerate and will vigorously prosecute those who abandon their legal responsibility to properly dispose of hazardous waste.”
“The potential danger posed by the improper disposal of hazardous wastes are well known,” said U.S. Attorney Loeffler. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing our nation’s environmental laws to protect the people of Alaska. We have an obligation to insure that our citizens are not injured and our lands are not polluted by the illegal disposal of hazardous materials.”
“By abandoning hundreds of bulging, rusty drums of hazardous chemicals, Defendant Vizzera knowingly saddled the property owners with a monumental mess and a cleanup bill of close to $400k,” stated Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in the Northwest and Alaska. “Being sent to jail should send the message to Vizzera and others -- there are severe consequences for environmental crime.”
The investigation was conducted by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska, and the Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10 in Seattle.