He has hauled hazardous waste around the state of California for years, putting it in places it shouldn’t be and dodging rules and regulations. Last week, Gressly pleaded no contest in Los Angeles Superior Court to six felony violations involving storage, transportation and disposal of toxic waste.
His company took waste it was supposed to deliver to disposal facilities and, instead, stashed it at three locations. When caught in 2010 in Santa Fe with a lot full of 55-gallon drums holding paint cleaning waste, Gressly reportedly admitted they were 5 years old.
As punishment for his crimes that repeatedly endangered the public, Gressly will serve 120 days in county jail, pay a fine of $7,500 and restitution of $228,000, and serve three years probation.
He will not be allowed to own a hazardous waste business—until his probation is over, according to a press release from the DTSC. And then, presumably, he can return to his chosen field.
“This type of illegal conduct will be investigated fully, and those responsible will be held accountable,” Reed Sato, chief counsel for the DTSC, told the Los Angeles Times after Gressly was sentenced.
That happens sometimes. But not often. Gressly is one of the few prosecutions pursued by the department, a sore point among its critics. The last time the EPA counted hazardous waste haulers, in 2011, it found 22,542 of them in California toting around 617,630 tons of the stuff.
A series of reports over the past year or so have not had kind words for the DTSC. The department, which operates within the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), oversees 117 hazardous waste facilities, keeps tabs on around 1,000 hazardous waste sites that are subjects of investigation or cleanup, watches 200 sites that have already been cleaned up and provides support services to dozens of other government agencies.
Governor Jerry Brown’s 2014-15 budget proposes that the department get 4.1% less money but hire 25 more people, bringing their total to 967. Thirteen of those new employees would deal with hazardous waste management.
A 115-page report (pdf) by CPS HR Consulting reviewed the department’s permit process and said it takes twice as long to do its job as it should. The report blamed crappy management and a staff that didn’t know how the process worked or when to revoke or deny a permit.
But its language was measured, unlike that of Consumer Watchdog’s Liza Tucker, who said in her “Golden Wasteland” report, “California has some of the toughest environmental protection laws in the nation, but also some of the weakest enforcement. Among the divisions that enforce those laws, the DTSC does the poorest job.”