Santa Paula Times

Two officials arrested for allegedly
concealing chemicals at SCWW facility

December 16, 2015
Santa Paula News

Two Santa Clara Waste Water – Green Compass officials were due in court Monday after being arrested again on new criminal charges stemming from investigators finding a stash of unreported caustic chemicals at the company’s facility west of Santa Paula.

The alleged find came just less than a year after toxic explosions and fires at the SCWW facility located at 815 Mission Rock Road, when according to investigators, the rear of a truck exploded and caused a 1,000-gallon chemical spill causing bodily impairment to seven workers and more than a dozen other people. Among those injured were three Santa Paula Firefighters who are still off duty who suffered injury from exposure to toxic chemicals.

William Mitzel, SCWW CEO and Marlene Faltemier, assistant general manager, were arrested and booked at the county’s main jail December 11 on 11 criminal charges, including felony reckless disregard for handling hazardous waste causing unreasonable risk, conspiracy to commit a crime, unlawful disposal of hazardous waste and submitting false statements.

Mitzel and Faltemier also face special allegations that the crimes were committed while they were out on bail on a separate but related case, the host of charges stemming from November 2014 that the two and seven other SCWW officials and personnel were arrested for in August.

Santa Clara Waste Water and Green Compass were also charged in the case that resulted in 71 felony and criminal charges filed against the defendants after they were indicted by a Grand Jury.

Bail was set at $500,000 for Mitzel and Faltemier, who along with the other defendants originally posted bail of $20,000 each when arrested in August. Two defendants later pleaded guilty to some of the charges and the others are due in court December 18 for arraignment. 

More than 5,000 gallons of hazardous materials, including Saxon, a corrosive industrial cleaning product were allegedly found during a November 5 warrant search.

The search resulted from two confidential sources only identified as defendants in the criminal case who told District Attorney Investigator Jeff Barry that although management was told that the chemicals stored in a Conex-type metal trailer must be disclosed by law, authorities were not notified.

Barry wrote in a search warrant that the chemicals found are caustic and “can create strong heat reactions” when mixed with incompatible acids.

Faltemier and Mitzel allegedly knew the chemicals were being stored at the facility and instructed employees not to report them. 

According to the warrant an environmental consultant was also aware the chemicals were on site in spite of the post November 2014 incident cleanup effort that included Patriot Environmental Services, which was retained by SCWW. 

Patriot has since announced it is purchasing SCWW, a deal that was initially revealed after the explosion that led Barry to suspect securities fraud on the part of SCWW officials.

Mitzel, according to the declaration filed in the new case, “initiated and directed a conspiracy to conceal the hazardous waste resulting in a danger to public safety, first responders and the local community.”

Mitzel and Faltemier could face a maximum sentence of four years and eight months in county jail if convicted in the new criminal case, in addition to any sentence if they are also found guilty of charges stemming from the November 2014 explosions and fire.

The Ventura County District Attorney and the state Attorney General, it was recently announced, will jointly prosecute both cases.