SANTA FE SPRINGS — A federal grand jury last week indicted Neville Chemical Co., a firm on the state's list of worst toxic-waste sites, for alleged unlawful disposal of hazardous waste at its plant on East Imperial Highway.
The indictment alleges that in February, 1981, the company illegally disposed of orthodichlorobenzene by secretly burying 55-gallon drums containing the hazardous chemical, said Ruth Ann Weidel, a lawyer with the environmental crimes unit of the U. S. Department of Justice.
She added that the company did not have a permit to dispose of the chemical, a solvent used by Neville in its manufacturing processes.
During a two-day search in November by agents of the FBI and federal Environmental Protection Agency, earth-moving equipment uncovered numerous drums and drum fragments containing the chemical, which were buried under concrete, Weidel said.
49th on Cleanup List
The Neville site ranks 49th on the cleanup list of 222 California toxic-waste sites. At its plant at 12800 E. Imperial Highway, Neville manufactures chlorinated wax used to make fire retardant and traffic paint, among other things.
Plant manager Jack Ferguson declined comment on the indictment. A spokeswoman for Neville attorney Norman Dupont said he would not comment because it is a criminal case.
Arraignment is scheduled for March 3 in Los Angeles before U. S. Magistrate Venetta Tassotulous. If convicted of the one-count felony indictment, the company faces a maximum fine of $25,000.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services said a state order issued in May to force the company to install a well for ground-water monitoring is still in effect against Neville.
Despite some steps taken by the company, including taking soil samples in December, the department "still feels" the firm has not complied with the agency's order, spokeswoman Marcia Murphy said.
The company has been "pretty slow" in taking remedial action, she said.
If a company does not comply with an order, the department can take other legal action against it. But, Murphy said, "our preference is to be able to work with a company instead of having to take them to court."