In a recent news release, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a guilty plea in a hazardous waste case. According to the news release, the defendant paid and directed another defendant to dump drums of hazardous waste near dumpsters at several apartment complexes throughout Columbus, Ohio. Six 55-gallon drums and sixty-four 10-gallon drums were found at six residential apartment complexes in Columbus. Many of the drums had brightly colored warning labels with symbols and written statements indicating “flammable” and “irritating,” many had a detailed listing of hazards and precautions.
Not Required to Prove Defendant Knew Material Met Regulatory Definition
The case highlights what the government must prove to get a felony conviction for the knowing disposal of hazardous waste without a permit. While the government must prove the material met the regulatory definition of “hazardous waste” and the disposal was without a permit, courts generally do not require the government to prove the defendant knew the disposal was without a permit, nor must the government prove the defendant knew the material met the regulatory definition. Rather, the government need only prove the defendant knew the material had the potential to be harmful to others or to the environment.
The case also shows what happens when stupid mixes with hazardous waste. The containers themselves allowed the government to prove the defendant knew the material had the potential to be harmful. The defendant was well advised to plead guilty.