Rexburg Man Found Guilty of Illegally Storing and Disposing of Hazardous Waste
POCATELLO – Max Spatig, 73, of Rexburg, Idaho, the owner of MS Enterprises, was convicted yesterday, following a two-week jury trial in federal court in Pocatello, of the felony of knowingly storing and disposing of hazardous waste on a property off the Archer-Lyman Highway near Rexburg, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced.
On July 8, 2010, a total of 3,478 containers of hazardous waste materials were found on the property outside of Rexburg. Many of the containers were labeled as containing hazardous materials and many were corroded. They had been left outdoors for years. Samples taken from some of the containers confirmed that the contents were hazardous waste due to ignitability and corrosivity characteristics. Ignitable materials catch fire at relatively low temperatures and present a dangerous fire hazard. Corrosive materials cause other materials to dissolve on contact. The contents of the containers were shipped to a hazardous waste disposal facility, incurring a cost to the federal government of $498,652. Neither MS Enterprises nor Spatig had any permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that would have covered the operation of a hazardous waste dump.
Spatig had engaged in similar conduct before. In 2005, the State of Idaho cleaned up hazardous waste from another property belonging to Spatig near Menan in Jefferson County, Idaho. The cost of that cleanup was $188,000. Previous to 2005, Spatig engaged in similar conduct in Kaysville, Utah.
Spatig’s sentencing is scheduled for August 24, 2015, before visiting Senior U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel, of Colorado, who presided over the trial.
“Illegally storing hazardous materials puts society at risk,” said Olson. “We are deeply concerned about the threat to public safety and to our environment. Investigation and prosecution of these cases will continue to be a priority for our state and federal partners and for this office.”
“For years, the defendant knowingly stored hazardous waste without regard to the dangers it posed to the public and to the environment,” said Lance Ehrig, Acting Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program for Idaho. “When EPA’s emergency response team first arrived on the defendant’s property, they found thousands of containers filled with corrosive and ignitable hazardous waste. The situation put human health at serious risk and cleanup cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today's guilty verdict by a jury demonstrates that the American people demand that if business owners treat our nation's environmental laws with contempt, they be held accountable."
The conviction for storing and disposing of hazardous waste without a permit carries a penalty up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. Because of multiple violations of court-orders prior to trial and offenses committed while on pre-trial release, Spatig has been held in custody since September 11, 2014.
The case was the result of a joint investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and the Madison County Sheriff’s office. It was prosecuted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.