Man gets two years for Basalt hazardous waste |

Man gets two years for Basalt hazardous waste

Jeremy Heiman

A Lakewood man was sentenced in Eagle County District Court Nov. 1 to two years in prison after illegally storing 50 tons of hazardous waste in Basalt and Eagle County.

John Mario D’Angelo, 49, pleaded guilty July 31 to one charge of contributing to a hazardous substance incident. In addition to the jail time, he will be required to pay restitution for the cost of an investigation by Eagle County officials and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

The investigation resulting in the sentence began in 1998, when the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department received a complaint that D’Angelo had left three barrels of toxic sludge on some property in Eagle County near Basalt. The complaint was lodged by an ex-girlfriend who was the owner of the property, said Ken Lane, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office.

D’Angelo was convicted and sentenced in 1998 for shipping hazardous chemicals in plastic milk bottles and distilled water bottles. A 15-year-old boy died after drinking from one of the containers, mistaking the contents for water.

D’Angelo owned and operated a company known as Utility Free, which was formed to recycle batteries containing a hazardous chemical called lithium hydroxide. The barrels apparently contained waste from such batteries. Lane said D’Angelo’s business was apparently headquartered in Basalt.

According to a release from the Attorney General’s Office, officers later learned that D’Angelo had also rented a storage unit in Basalt, and on visiting the unit, they found more barrels of sludge. They also found hundreds of nickel-cadmium batteries, some of which had split open and spilled their contents onto the floor.

The cadmium in such batteries is linked to kidney disorders and causes cancer. The liquid battery waste is considered hazardous waste because it is corrosive and can cause burns, blindness or death if ingested.

At another storage complex in Basalt, where D’Angelo had rented more units, officials found more batteries and some 30-gallon drums and plastic trash barrels containing more waste. In all, D’Angelo’s storage units contained 50 tons of waste nickel-cadmium batteries, 21 gallons of caustic liquid battery waste and more than 100 pounds of barium hydroxide. This substance is referred to in court documents as “caustic soda flak,” Lane said.

“When they opened up the storage units, material was leaking from the batteries,” Lane said. “It would have eventually started to run out under the doors.”

Lane said it appeared that D’Angelo had abandoned the material, because he had not been paying rent on the storage units. But when D’Angelo was questioned, Lane said, he said he intended to follow up on the project.

The charge D’Angelo pleaded guilty to, contributing to a hazardous substance incident, was one of eight charges leveled against D’Angelo, Lane said. Possible jail sentences range from one to three years.

D’Angelo was also fined $87,513 in 1995 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a history of non-compliance with hazardous materials regulations.

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