The owner of a Colorado company that paints aircraft has pleaded guilty to improper treatment of a hazardous waste. United States v. Teltow, No. 1:13-0027 (D. Colo. 3/12/13). Owner Norman Teltow could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

According to the plea agreement, during an April 2010 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inspection, the company was found to be illegally storing a mixed waste containing methylene chloride in a tank beneath the building in which it operates. Waste methylene chloride is ignitable and considered a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The company was ordered to seal the trench drain that led to the underground tank and hire a contractor to clean out the tank. The owner of the hangar used by Teltow’s company hired a contractor to pump the underground tank, but sludge remained after that operation, and Teltow then directed company employees to remove the sludge without taking any protective precautions.

Lacking a price-attractive disposal option, the company began pouring a mixture of water, methylene chloride and other constituents on the hangar’s floor at the end of some workdays, leaving the doors open and allowing the methylene chloride to evaporate. Eventually, the owner drilled a hole in the sealed drain to allow use of the tank for waste storage. The guilty plea was to one count of illegal treatment of a hazardous waste and resolves other RCRA charges, as well as charges under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Sentencing is scheduled to occur in June 2013.