Owner of Pavement Painting Business Pleads Guilty in Alaska to Illegally Disposing Hazardous Waste
WASHINGTON – William Duran Vizzerra Jr. pleaded guilty today to illegally disposing of hazardous waste, a felony criminal offense, at a storage lot in Anchorage, Alaska, 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.
According to the plea agreement filed 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 from a storage lot in Anchorage from at least 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. Having made no attempts to properly dispose of the 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. The waste, totaling 204,750 pounds, was determined to be hazardous because it was extremely flammable.
In November 2010, a citizen reported the abandoned drums to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA Criminal Investigation Division Agents observed 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 his landlord $380,877.60 to clean up and properly dispose of the waste.
“The illegal disposal of hazardous waste puts everyone in our community at risk,” said U.S. Attorney Loeffler. “The defendant in this case knowingly abandoned hundreds of barrels of toluene and other dangerous and highly flammable chemicals. We are fortunate that this dangerous situation was reported, and that the EPA responded to insure that the waste was removed and nobody was hurt. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska is committed to actively prosecuting environmental crimes for the protection of all Alaskans.”
“By first neglecting and then abandoning hazardous chemicals at his place of business, Vizzera's actions put both people and the environment at risk," said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in the Northwest. “Adding insult to injury, he then saddled an innocent property owner and taxpayers with a total cleanup cost approaching half a million dollars. Our message in this matter is clear: if you fail to manage hazardous waste safely and responsibly, you will be investigated and prosecuted.”
The maximum penalties for knowingly disposing of hazardous waste include five years of incarceration and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation. U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline set Vizzerra’s sentencing for Nov. 14, 2012.
The investigation was conducted by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. The case was prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department, 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.