Miramar man pleads guilty to hazardous waste dumping

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A man who dumped containers of nitric acid and potassium cyanide at the Miramar Landfill pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegal disposal of hazardous waste.

Raul Antonio Gonzalez Lopez, 55, admitted that on March 12, 2011, he drove to a business in National City called We Lend More to pick up trash that he knew included containers of acid and potassium cyanide, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendant also admitted that the following day, he dumped the trash containing the hazardous materials at the Miramar Landfill, which does not possess a permit that would allow it to accept federally regulated hazardous waste for disposal, prosecutors said.

According to court documents, Joe Lowry, a chief scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, advised that when combined, potassium cyanide and acids produce a deadly hydrogen cyanide gas.

According to experts, one breath of pure hydrogen cyanide gas would be enough to kill a person, and 50 parts per million of hydrogen cyanide is the level determined to be immediately dangerous to life or health.

Lowry prepared a dispersion model showing the threat area where the concentration of hydrogen cyanide is greater than or equal to 50 ppm, assuming a wind of 3 mph. The zone extends about 71 yards from the initial point of combination, and anyone within 30 yards when the chemicals combined could have been killed instantly.

In February 2011, We Lend More and its owner, Marc Vogel, were convicted of aiding and abetting the illegal transportation and disposal of hazardous waste.

Evidence at trial showed that the acid – in a breakable glass bottle – and cyanide – in old plastic containers – were disposed of together in the same cardboard box, which was dumped at the landfill.

Because the landfill operators use heavy equipment to compact the face of the landfill, such activity would be expected to cause the containers to break and the chemicals to combine, posing a grave risk to anyone within 30 yards, according to the government.

A sentencing date for Lopez was not immediately available.

Categories: KUSI