News and Press Releases

Pharmacology Professor Dumped Highly Flammable Material Down the Drain

March 7, 2007

DANIEL R. STORM, 62, of Seattle, Washington pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle today to a felony violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act: Knowingly Disposing of Hazardous Waste without a Permit. STORM, a Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Washington admits that in June 2006, he dumped containers of highly flammable ethyl ether down a sink in his lab. The illegal disposal of ethyl ether created a significant risk of explosion or fire. STORM faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on June 18, 2007.

According to the plea agreement signed today, in early June 2006, the University of Washington Environmental Health and Safety Department conducted a survey of STORM’s lab. The inspectors determined that three metal containers of ethyl ether and two glass bottles containing a mixture of ethyl ether and water needed to be disposed. The Environmental Health and Safety Department informed STORM that the cost of disposal would be $15,000. STORM thought that cost was too high and did not want pay the fee from his laboratory operations account.

On June 25, 2006, STORM used an axe to break open the metal containers and dumped the ethyl ether down a sink in his laboratory. Using an axe to break open the metal containers was very risky, due to the possibility of a spark which could have ignited the ethyl ether fumes. STORM also poured the glass bottles of ethyl ether and water down the sink, and ran the taps in an effort to dilute the flammable material. STORM poured an ethanol solution down the drain to flush out any remaining explosive material. STORM subsequently attempted to conceal the illegal discharge.

“The incident was discovered by the University of Washington' s Environmental Health and Safety and immediately reported to the appropriate authorities,” said Tina Mankowski, Associate Vice President for Medical Affairs. “The UW has taken steps to ensure that faculty, staff and students know how to safely and appropriately handle laboratory materials. This incident is currently under review by the UW and a range of remedial and disciplinary actions are under consideration.”

The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) and the University of Washington Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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