HONOLULU, HAWAII – STEPHEN SWIFT, 55, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for two counts of transporting hazardous waste (perchloroethylene) without a manifest and 27 months imprisonment for one count of storing the perchloroethylene without a permit on his property in Waianae from February 2005 until the EPA seized it for destruction on
May 16, 2008. United States District Judge David A. Ezra also imposed a $7,500 fine.
Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that transporting hazardous waste requires a license from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the State of Hawaii Department of Health so that those agencies can track its transportation and disposal.
According to the evidence at the April 2010 trial:
In February 2005 Swift was hired by Martin Warehousing and Storage, a company based at Sand Island, to transport and dispose of hazardous waste derived from a spill at Martin Warehousing’s property on August 14, 2001.
The spill involved the chemical tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or “perc” which is commonly used by dry cleaning stores to clean clothes.
An environmental clean-up company vacuumed up contaminated water and dug up contaminated asphalt. The President and owner of Martin Warehousing, Jerome Anches, did not want to pay the $16,000 to have the hazardous waste transported to the mainland for destruction. Instead, the hazardous waste remained in an unused Matson container on Martin Warehousing’s property from August 14, 2001, until February 7 or 8, 2005.
In early February 2005, the Martin Warehousing site was sold, and Anches hired Swift to transport the hazardous waste in the Matson container to the mainland for proper disposal. Instead, Swift moved the hazardous waste to his undeveloped property in Waianae where it remained until the EPA learned of it on May 16, 2008.
On May 26, 2009 On February 22, 2010, Anches, 70, who pled guilty to storing the hazardous waste without a permit on Martin Warehousing’s property from the time of the spill until Swift removed it, was sentenced to a term of five years of probation, received a $300,000 fine, and was ordered to immediately pay $84,000 to reimburse the EPA for the costs in cleaning up the hazardous waste on the Waianae site.
According to trial testimony, a perchloroethylene spill can cause many serious injuries, even death. There have been documented cases of people dying from too much inhalation of perc. In this case, three of the drums containing the perc rusted out and released vapors, although no one was injured. Following EPA’s discovery of the hazardous waste on Swift’s property, it was packed and transported to the mainland where it was destroyed pursuant to the law.
USA Nakakuni complimented the EPA for conducting the investigation which led to the prosecution. Nick Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s criminal enforcement program, noted that “perchloroethylene can contaminate groundwater and drinking water if it is not stored safely and legally,” and individuals who transport, dispose, or store such hazardous waste illegally will be vigorously pursued. The State of Hawaii Department of Health’s Hazardous Waste Section was instrumental in discovering the hazardous waste.
USA Nakakuni noted that hazardous waste dumps are a very real concern for law enforcement officials in Hawaii, and the public should report any such location to EPA. “The public’s cooperation is instrumental in enabling officials to locate sites where hazardous waste has been dumped or stored,” she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg prosecuted the cases against Anches and Swift.
SUBMITTED BY ELLIOT ENOKI, U.S. Department of Justice, United States Attorney