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Firms, Driver Indicted in Acid Dumping

November 03, 1987|JENIFER WARREN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — In the second case brought by a new task force formed to boost prosecutions for violations of hazardous waste laws here, a federal grand jury has indicted two California businesses and a truck driver on charges of dumping sulfuric acid into a culvert leading into an Oceanside estuary that is home to endangered bird species.

The indictment alleges that Louis Henry Hall Jr., a driver employed by a Hanford-based fertilizer distributor, violated the federal Clean Water Act in March when he dumped sulfuric acid into a culvert that drains into the Santa Margarita Estuary, a sprawling wetland on the Camp Pendleton Marine base.

Hall, 41, a resident of Laton, also is charged with two counts of making false statements--to game wardens who happened upon the alleged dumping episode and to federal agents investigating the case.

Named in Indictment

Also named in the indictment are Hall's employer, Verdegaal Bros. Inc., and Agriculture Installations Inc., an Oxnard firm that ordered a tanker truck full of sulfuric acid for use on tomato fields adjacent to the estuary.

Sulfuric acid, commonly used in a highly diluted form to reduce the alkalinity of soil on agricultural fields, is highly toxic in concentrated levels. Inhalation of sulfuric acid mists can cause injury to the respiratory system, and the substance can kill fish and vegetation and is considered a threat to two endangered bird species, the California least tern and the light-footed clapper rail, which breed at the federally managed estuary.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles S. Crandall said the case is the second to grow from investigations conducted by San Diego's Hazardous Waste Task Force, a criminal investigative group made up of representatives from the FBI, the district attorney's office and environmental regulatory agencies.

In July, a nine-count indictment was issued against the operators of a San Marcos dairy for discharging dairy waste into a creek.

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