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203-Count Criminal Complaint Filed : Chatsworth Firm Charged in Toxic Dumping Case

December 10, 1987|LYNN STEINBERG | Times Staff Writer

Calling it one of the biggest environmental cases in the history of Los Angeles, City Atty. James K. Hahn filed a 203-count criminal complaint Wednesday against a Chatsworth electronics company that he said broke nearly "every environmental law in the book" against improperly storing and disposing of hazardous materials.

Electroplating Technology and its president, Dorence Anderson Freed, 66, of Thousand Oaks, were charged with illegally storing toxic materials and illegally disposing of hazardous industrial waste--including acids, copper, lead and nickel--in sewers and commercial dumpsters.

The company, at 9625 Cozycroft St., manufactures printed circuit boards.

"This company managed to break about every environmental law in the book in regard to storage and disposal of hazardous material," Hahn said. "Not only were they damaging the sewer system, but they were also damaging the safety of sewer workers, trash collectors, company employees and anybody else who went to the plant."

The acids can cause burns and respiratory problems, Hahn said. Some of the contaminants could form a toxic gas--hydrogen sulfide--when mixed with organic matter in the sewers, he said.

The charges stem from an investigation by the city's Bureau of Sanitation and the county's Department of Health Services. The inquiry was prompted by a routine inspection of Electroplating Technology in August, 1986.

The investigation revealed frequent illegal dumping of hazardous and industrial waste, which Hahn said continued non-stop for 24 hours on one occasion. Hazardous wastes were illegally stored in unlabeled metal drums, he said, and employees put contaminated wooden platforms and drums of sludge containing heavy metals in commercial dumpsters.

Those violations prompted city sanitation workers to disconnect the company's sewer line in February.

Service was restored in April after the problems were corrected, said Stephen Overton, a chief inspector for the Bureau of Sanitation's Industrial Waste Operation, Inspectors monitor the firm monthly.

Charges in the city attorney's complaint stem from violations between August, 1986, and February, said Deputy City Atty. Steven R. Tekosky.

Freed and the company were charged with nine counts of illegally disposing of hazardous wastes, 72 counts of illegally disposing of industrial wastes and 122 counts of illegally storing hazardous waste.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 167 years in jail and fines of more than $3.5 million.

Arraignment was scheduled Jan. 7 in Los Angeles Municipal Court.

Freed could not be reached for comment.

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