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J.C. Penney, Employee Charged With Illegal Toxic Dumping at Puente Hills

November 13, 1988|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

J. C. Penney Co. and a supervisor at the firm's Santa Fe Springs warehouse and maintenance facility have been charged with illegally disposing of hazardous waste at the Puente Hills Landfill near Whittier.

Los Angeles County prosecutors filed four misdemeanor counts against both the firm and the employee Wednesday after investigating a complaint that six 55-gallon drums of waste oil and detergent had been left in a dumpster at Penney's Norwalk Boulevard plant, then dumped at Puente Hills by a private waste hauler on Aug. 3.

Both the company and supervisor Christopher Muzquiz, 39, were charged with illegally transporting and disposing of hazardous waste and with failing to label or declare the drums as hazardous on a hauler's manifest, said Deputy Dist. Atty. William Carter.

A spokesman for J. C. Penney said the company had not been served with the charges and would not comment.

Each defendant faces fines that range from $10,000 to $200,000. Muzquiz also faces up to one year in jail for each count, Carter said. Fines up to $100,000 have been levied against numerous other Los Angeles County companies facing similar violations, and sentences for at least 20 first-time individual offenders have averaged between 30 days and six months in jail, he said.

State law requires that hazardous wastes be hauled to specially designated landfills or recycled at special treatment plants. Disposal at toxic landfills is cheaper than recycling, costing about $200 a drum to truck about 100 miles north to dumps near Santa Barbara and Bakersfield, Carter said.

'Spotters' at Landfills

"Unfortunately a lot of people are still (illegally) taking their hazardous wastes to local landfills, and Puente Hills seems to be the one that takes the brunt of it," he said.

All county landfills have "spotters" who look for illegal dumping, then report it to one of several law enforcement agencies for investigation. The Los Angeles city attorney or the district attorney prosecutes the cases.

The district attorney is prosecuting about 100 toxic waste disposal cases, Carter said.

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