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San Diego company Curtis Technology Inc. fined $150,000 for hazardous waste violations

Posted at 8:42 AM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 11:42:36-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- A San Diego company was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $150,000 for violations related to illegally transporting hazardous waste from its facility to its owner's three local residences.

Curtis Technology Inc., which specializes in metal finishing operations, pleaded guilty in February to charges of transporting hazardous waste without a manifest for moving chemical waste from the company's Sorrento Valley facility to the owner's three San Diego residences without a hazardous waste manifest, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors say the transports occurred over the course of nearly four years, with a CTI maintenance worker informing the FBI that he was directed by the owner to transport unused and waste chemicals. Prosecutors said the chemicals were waste generated by the company's finishing operations.

"The employee stated that the chemicals were hazardous, and that some could react with others stored at the same location if they were to come in contact with each other, potentially resulting in explosion," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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He also told the FBI that he had seen containers of unknown chemicals at the owner's homes on various occasions. Prosecutors said the homes were unoccupied, with none of the chemical containers labeling them as containing hazardous waste.

Among the chemicals he delivered in either five-gallon buckets or lidded jars were selenium, cesium, ferric chloride, alkaline, and filter cake.

On Nov. 14, 2019, federal search warrants were served at the three residences, where more than 300 containers of waste chemicals were discovered, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and some of them were too unstable to move. As a result, a San Diego Fire Department bomb squad was brought to the scene to detonate the chemicals on-site.

The remaining chemicals were removed from the residences and disposed through the EPA Superfund program at a cost of about $114,000, prosecutors said.

"This company was so cavalier and irresponsible about the storage of chemicals that it knowingly put an entire neighborhood at risk," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. "This sentence holds the company accountable for its illegal actions."