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San Diego businessman pays EPA $5,000 for cleanup costs of chemicals abandoned in Chula Vista in 1998

Release Date: 2/2/2004
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, U.S. EPA, (213) 452-3378

LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered a Southern California businessman to pay an additional $5,000 for costs incurred by the agency while removing toxic chemicals left in a trailer in Chula Vista, Calif. in 1998.

According to EPA records, Gary Rasmussen illegally transported hazardous waste fromOceanside to a vacant lot near Lagoon Street and Bay Street in Chula Vista, Calif. An EPA cleanup crew later removed and disposed the abandoned Chula Vista toxic chemicals in 1998, spending approximately $49,000 in the process.

For this, Rasmussen was sentenced in 2001 for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The Chula Vista chemical wastes consisted of crystallized picric acid, tetrahydrofuran and sodium metal, all of which are potentially explosive. In addition, nitroethane, potassium dichromate, nitric acid, copper cyanide, potassium cyanide, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid were discovered. If disturbed, the reactive wastes could have exploded, causing fires and gas clouds, all serious risks to human health.

Shortly after the EPA=s response, Rasmussen was incarcerated for investment fraud. As part of his conviction, the criminal court ordered Rasmussen to pay victim restitution to the EPA for costs associated with the cleanup.

During his incarceration, Rasmussen paid $3,000 to the EPA. Because Rasmussen lost his job due to the conviction, the EPA is accepting the additional $5,000 payment based on Rasmussen's inability to pay more without impacting his necessary and ordinary living expenses.

"This settlement strikes the right balance between the EPA's need for reimbursement and Mr. Rasmussen's ability to pay for his putting communities at risk," said Keith Takata, director of the EPA's Superfund Division in San Francisco. "We will continue to make businesses pay for environmental cleanups we undertake to protect public health and the environment."