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September 2003

Pennsylvania Man Arrested for Improper Handling of Hazardous Waste

Nearly 200 Fifty-five Gallon Drums that Tested Positive for Lead and Silver were Buried Beneath a Scrap Yard Site in Berks County

Harrisburg, PA— Attorney General Mike Fisher announced that agents from his Environmental Crimes Section have criminally charged a Berks County, Pennsylvania, businessman, his company’s general manager, and a private contractor with burying nearly 200 fifty-five gallon drums, some of which contained hazardous wastes including lead and silver. The drums were allegedly buried at the former Reading Industrial Scrap Yard (RISCO) site in Berks County. The charges allege that the illegal pit, dug on the property, also contained asbestos and other solid wastes.

Fisher identified the defendants as: Frederick Snyder, Snyder’s general manager Dale Smith, and Mount Carbon Industries owner Gary Lee Gerber Jr. Also named as a defendant was Snyder’s business, Group Two Properties Inc., 4641 Pottsville Pike, Reading. Snyder and Group Two Properties purchased and then sold the former RISCO site located at 2001 Centre Avenue., Reading.

According to the criminal charges, the defendants between June 2001 and August 2002 knowingly and intentionally buried nearly 200 drums that in some cases contained liquid that tested positive for lead and silver.

Fisher said Snyder and Group Two Properties were each charged with two felony counts of illegally disposing and storing hazardous waste and three counts of Unlawful Conduct under Pennsylvania’s Solid Waste Management Act.

Smith and Gerber were each charged with two felony counts of illegally disposing and storing hazardous waste and two counts of Unlawful Conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.

Fisher said Snyder in September 2000 purchased the former RISCO site through his company Group Two Properties. The charges allege that Snyder hired Gerber to haul the hazardous waste and other materials on the property to several legal waste sites, including the BFI Landfill in Morgantown, Pennsylvania.

Fisher said the criminal investigation was referred to his Environmental Crimes Section by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after the agency received a tip that hundreds of drums were buried at the site. As part of the investigation, Fisher’s agents between August 21 and 26, 2002 conducted a search of the property.

“During the search, my agents and DEP personnel unearthed nearly 200 large, and in some cases leaking drums,” Fisher said. “Tests on some of the materials found inside several drums determined the presence of significant levels of lead and silver, which are two known hazardous materials. Creating a potential environmental disaster to save money is not the way we do business in Pennsylvania. Those who chose that route will be arrested and prosecuted.”

Fisher said, “In our view, these defendants had no permission, no permits and no legal right to bury hazardous materials in the ground.”

Investigators said Snyder in March 2002 sold the property to another company. The agreement of sale, signed by the new owner and Snyder, stated that the property was free of any “hazardous substances” and that the seller has no knowledge of “hazardous substances” on the premises. Snyder claimed that he conducted an environmental assessment and that the site was completely clean.

Fisher said separate charges of Unlawful Conduct were filed against Snyder and Group Two Properties accusing both parties of falsely claiming that the property did not contain hazardous waste at the time of sale. In September 2002, Group Two Properties was ordered by the DEP to clean the site.

The defendants surrendered to Fisher’s agents and were arrested and arraigned before District Justice Dean Patton in Reading. Snyder, Gerber and Smith were each released on $50,000 unsecured bail.

 


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