The owner of a Sun Valley electroplating company was ordered this week to stand trial on charges of dumping cyanide and other toxins into city sewers.
Jack Meltzer, 53, owner of Quality Processing Co., faces 16 counts of illegal dumping, including 10 felonies, as well as fines of more than $1 million, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Anthony Patchett, a prosecutor in the county's Environmental Crimes unit.
Meltzer was ordered to face the charges following a preliminary hearing before Los Angeles Municipal Judge Ronald Schoenberg.
"It's not very often that people put such huge amounts of cyanide in the sewer system like this," Patchett said. "Especially with such a huge potential to kill so many people by fumes or an explosion."
But Meltzer's attorney, Barry Groveman, downplayed the seriousness of the dumping, arguing that even city investigators seemed unfazed by the toxins.
"The city personnel wore no protective gear when going in and out of that sewer," Groveman said in a phone interview. "That shows the level of concern they had for their safety in this case. [Prosecutors] tried to make it seem like they poured thousands of gallons into the sewer, and that's not true."
Prosecutors allege that Meltzer last year ordered employees to pour thousands of gallons of hazardous materials into the sewer system. The untreated chemicals were discovered by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation during routine tests near the company.
Meltzer has declined to comment on the charges against him.
Patchett said employees from Meltzer's Quality Processing Co. testified during the preliminary hearing that Meltzer told them he needed to save money by dumping wastes in the sewer instead of paying to dispose of it properly.
"There was one employee whose job all day long was to fill a 55-gallon container of discharge and pump it into a pirate pump that flowed into the sewer," Patchett said.
Groveman called the allegations untrue.
Prosecutors said the dumping endangered both employees and local businesses because of the high volume of potentially explosive chemicals being dumped into the sewer.