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U.S. EPA charges Coachella Valley businessman with violating federal waste laws; Public invited to March 20 progress report

Release Date: 03/21/2007
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, (213) 244-1815

(03/21/07 -- LOS ANGELES) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is charging Thermal, Calif. businessman George AuClair Jr. with violating the nation’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act hazardous and solid waste law.

AuClair operates an un-permitted waste disposal site located near the exterior boundaries of the Torres-Martinez Indian Reservation in Riverside County. The EPA, the Torres Martinez Tribal Council and a collaborative of state and local agencies have been working together to stop the illegal disposal of solid and hazardous waste on the reservation. This enforcement action is part of a larger effort to stop illegal dumping in the Coachella Valley.

“Mishandling and illegal disposal of hazardous and solid waste endanger the community and harm the environment,” said Jeff Scott, the EPA’s Waste Management Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. “This order sends a clear message that EPA will vigorously enforce all environmental regulations to ensure the protection of human health and the environment.”

The AuClair waste disposal site received large quantities of waste from off the reservation, including household garbage, lead-acid batteries, tires, used oil, cleaning fluids, furniture, electronic equipment, green waste, and chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood waste. The EPA has already spent over $300,000 in cleaning up the toxic ash at the site from the burning of CCA-treated wood waste. The California Integrated Waste Management Board will be spending an additional $1 million to clean up solid waste at the site.

CCA-treated wood is treated with chromated copper arsenate to inhibit degradation. If burned, the smoke and the resulting ash may contain arsenic and chromium, which when breathed, is hazardous for human health.

“When EPA cleans up toxic wastes, EPA pursues those responsible for the costs of the cleanup,” said Keith Takata, the EPA’s Superfund Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. "Companies that send their waste to illegal dumps on the reservation instead of lawful facilities are liable for the costs of any cleanup by EPA."

Tribal officials confirmed that there are no lawful facilities for disposing of solid or hazardous waste on the reservation. “We support 100% these efforts to stop illegal dumping and clean up illegal dump sites,” said Tribal Chairman Raymond Torres.

The EPA’s complaint alleges that George AuClair Jr. violated hazardous and solid waste laws by:

    Open dumping of solid waste;
    Open burning of solid waste;
    Failing to notify EPA of its waste handling activity and to apply for an EPA identification number;
    Storage and disposal of hazardous waste without a permit;
    Failing to label containers of used oil.

The EPA will be assessing a civil penalty of up to $32,500 per day, per violation.

The EPA, the Torres-Martinez Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are working with 25 local, state, and federal agencies to stop the illegal disposal of solid and hazardous waste on the reservation and in Riverside County.

The public is invited to attend today’s progress report:

Tuesday, March 20
2:00 - 3:30 p.m.
Torres Martinez Reservation Gymnasium
66-725 Martinez Road, Thermal, Calif. 92274