California Man Sentenced to Prison for Illegally Storing Toxic, Explosive Hazardous Waste in Backyard

Edward Wyman, 64, from Reseda, Calif., has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for illegally storing toxic and explosive hazardous wastes in his backyard, materials that posed an imminent danger to nearby residents. The sentence is the longest handed down by a California federal judge in a hazardous waste case.

“Illegally storing toxic and explosive hazardous wastes is a crime and in this case a very dangerous one," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today's sentence shows that there are consequences to breaking the law and putting the public at risk."

"Today's sentence demonstrates the serious nature of federal environmental crimes," according to United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "Federal environmental regulations exist to protect both public safety and the environment. The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the environment and to prosecuting persons who threaten the community through their illegal actions."

Wyman was convicted of the felony environmental crime on April 5, 2011, by a federal jury following a five-day trial. In addition to convicting Wyman of violating the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the jury made a special finding that the defendant’s conduct knowingly placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Wyman was also ordered to pay $800,000 to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9 Emergency Response Office for costs associated with a 47-day clean-up. During the clean-up, EPA contractors were forced to call out the Los Angeles Police Department Bomb and Arson Squad seven times to deal with possible explosives mixed into the burned debris.

Wyman was charged in June 2009, after firefighters responded to a report of a fire and explosions at Wyman’s residence. Because of the ammunition that was being “cooked off” in the fire, firefighters had to wear bullet proof vests. Investigators at the scene discovered a large cache of toxic materials, including thousands of rounds of corroded ammunition, highly reactive lead-contaminated waste from shooting ranges, hundreds of pounds of decades-old gunpowder and military M6 cannon powder, and industrial solvents that contained 1,1,1‑trichloroethane and tetrachloroethylene, two potent chemicals that are listed as hazardous substances under federal law. Wyman did not have a permit to store any of the materials.