Kanasco Ltd. indicted for 1991 chemical spill

September 30, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County grand jury indicted a Brooklyn Park pharmaceutical firm yesterday for its June 1991 release of hazardous chemicals into a public sewer.

Kanasco Ltd., which manufactures synthetic penicillin, was charged in the same indictment with unlawful storage of hazardous wastes. In a separate civil complaint, the Maryland Department of the Environment accused the company of additional environmental infractions.

The company, in the 6100 block of Robinwood Road, could be fined up to $200,000 if convicted on two felony counts. No trial date has been set.

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Beebe Volz said the two counts stem from a June 23, 1991, spill of 1,000 gallons of methylene chloride into a janitor's sink and the public sewers. After the spill, state investigators also found that Kanasco was storing hazardous waste on the premises for more than 90 days, a violation of state law.

Ms. Volz said Kanasco has "a long history of violations," although this is the first time the company has been charged criminally. Two earlier investigations by the state's Environmental Crimes Unit ended in civil complaints against the company, she said.

Voluminous files at the state Department of the Environment chronicle Kanasco's 18-year history of unauthorized dumping into storm drains and public sewers. The state ordered the company to clean up in 1974, 1982, 1986 and 1988. A 1988 hazardous liquid spill sent 10 area families to the hospital.

The company has paid nearly $90,000 in penalties over the past decade.

"That was one of the factors in our decision" to prosecute, Ms. Volz said. "We decided we needed a stronger enforcement tool to get their attention."

The department served Kanasco officials with a new civil complaint yesterday as well, charging the company with additional hazardous waste, clean air and water violations.

Department spokesman Michael Sullivan said the company did not monitor the air around its plant for dangerous vapors between Dec. 4, 1991, and March 31, 1992, and committed three odor violations in June 1991 and May 1992. State regulations prohibit discharging "vapors, gases or odors beyond the property line, in such a manner that a nuisance or air pollution is caused."

The complaint also charges the company with releasing hazardous chemicals into the Anne Arundel County public sewer on April 7, 1991; May 5, 1991; and June 23, 1991.

The company also dumped industrial wastewater at Harford County's Aberdeen Waster Water Treatment Plant without state approval on June 10, 19 and 26 of this year, Mr. Sullivan said. He said the state has no way of knowing whether that wastewater was hazardous.

The state has ordered Kanasco to pay a $25,000 penalty and to comply with its operating permits and state environmental regulations, Mr. Sullivan said. Kanasco officials have 10 days to appeal the complaint.

Kanasco officials did not return a reporter's telephone call yesterday.

Residents from the Sunnyfield Estates, Arundel Gardens and Cedar Avenue communities have long complained about the violations at Kanasco. After last year's spill, they asked the state to shut the company down.

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, said he believes yesterday's indictment and civil complaint will be the final chapter in the Kanasco saga. He said he believes the company will be unable to comply with the state order or pay its fines.

"I hope this indictment gives the residents some peace of mind," he said. "For years, [Kanasco] has been putting profit above the health of the people who live nearby."

Ms. Volz said the indictments are not an attempt to close Kanasco.

"What I hope will happen is Kanasco officials will learn from this and refrain from any future misconduct," Ms. Volz said.

Ms. Volz said she did not seek the indictment of any Kanasco officials.

"We sought to prove if an individual was responsible for ordering [last summer's] discharge, and we have not been able to establish that," she said.

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