A defense contractor who abandoned an unlicensed laboratory full of hazardous and explosive chemicals in Sorrento Valley in 2010 has been sentenced to three years probation, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
CityBeat first reported about the investigation into Michael Conrad and Aries Associates, also known as Asgard Associates, in August 2011. Conrad, who worked as a military subcontractor through L-3 Communications, abandoned the lab during a prolonged intellectual-property dispute over decontamination technology. The chemicals were left mostly unsecured and, in some cases, unlabeled. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to handle the lab as a Superfund removal site and some chemicals were detonated by a bomb squad.
Conrad pled guilty in June. In addition to probation, he will have to pay back $175,000 to cover the clean-up costs and perform 240 hours of community service.
The full text of the release:
CORPORATION SENTENCED FOR ILLEGALLY STORING HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY
December 3, 2012
United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that Asgard Associates, LLC, a Delaware corporation that previously maintained a laboratory on Roselle Street in San Diego, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay clean-up costs of $175,000 for unlawfully storing hazardous waste at the Sorrento Valley facility. In July 2012, Asgard Associates pled guilty to a felony environmental crime because of its storage at the site of chemicals and biological agents that posed a threat of imminent and identifiable harm to the public health and safety.
According to court records and admissions during the guilty plea, between January 26, 2010, and March 18, 2010, Asgard Associates knew that numerous containers of chemicals were stored at the Roselle Street laboratory in lieu of disposal. Among other things, the company acknowledged it was aware that some of the chemicals stored (without a permit) had the potential to pose a substantial risk to human health and the environment. Nonetheless, the company refused to provide funds for the disposal of these hazardous chemicals.
Due to the company's failure to properly dispose of these hazardous chemicals, on May 6, 2010 and June 10, 2010, San Diego County Department of Environmental Health Services ("DEH") personnel conducted inspections and sampling of the chemicals. These tests led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to conduct clean-up operations at the Roselle laboratory (under the authority of Superfund) in August 2010. According to the EPA, the laboratory contained over 2,500 containers of chemicals (many of them unlabeled), requiring the agency to spend over $167,000 to properly clean-up the site.
Some of the chemicals stored at the Roselle laboratory, in the form in which they were stored, were federally regulated hazardous wastes. These chemicals had to be "detonated" by the EPA and the San Diego Fire Department Bomb Squad, as they were too unstable to safely transport.
United States District Judge M. James Lorenz ordered Asgard Associates to repay the costs incurred by the EPA and DEH, and ordered, as a condition of the three-year term of probation, that its employee, Michael Conrad, perform 240 hours of community service.