Environmental Protection

Beetham, Company Plead Not Guilty to Illegal Disposal, Storage

Dennis Beetham and his company, D.B. Western Inc., pleaded not guilty of illegally dumping hazardous and other industrial waste in Crook County, Ore., in an Aug. 6 indictment at the U.S. Courthouse in Portland.

The federal charges allege that Beetham and his company unlawfully mishandled several hazardous wastes: dumping polymerized liquid formaldehyde and nitric acid into a cinder cone on a ranch Beetham owned in Powell Butte, Ore. They also are charged with storing polymerized liquid formaldehyde waste at the ranch.

According to a state source, D.B. Western filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) last August. The case is still in discovery. News reports say that the company had cooperated with a voluntary cleanup but a test method and the classification of the wastes changed during that process. Counsel for the litigants have set a meeting in November in order to set a trial date.

DEQ terminated the Voluntary Cleanup Agreement with D.B. Western, Inc. on Aug. 25, 2008, for failure to provide a work plan within a specified time.

The federal charges are covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which regulates the handling of hazardous wastes from their creation through disposal. The law prohibits the treatment, storage and disposal of any hazardous waste without interim status or a permit.

Formaldehyde is a chemical used in various products ranging from textiles to wood products. When discarded, formaldehyde qualifies as a hazardous waste under RCRA. Nitric acid is used in many industrial settings but is extremely corrosive and considered a hazardous waste under RCRA when discarded.

The state charges against Beetham and D.B. Western were filed in Crook County following an investigation by District Attorney Daina Vitolins. The state indictment alleges that the defendants unlawfully created air pollution, disposed of solid waste without a permit, unlawfully created water pollution and failed to complete a clean-up of a waste site. These charges stem from the defendants' alleged dumping of vast quantities of non-hazardous industrial waste and household waste into the cinder cone on the Powell Butte ranch; burning the waste; and failing to complete clean-up of the site as directed by DEQ.

The federal investigation was undertaken jointly by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon, the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and the Crook County District Attorney, with investigative leadership by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. District Attorney Daina Vitolins was designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to assist in the federal investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Daina Vitolins for the District of Oregon and Senior Trial Attorney J. Ronald Sutcliffe of the Department of Justice are prosecuting the federal case.

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