The Office of Attorney General Thursday announced the arrest of Eric Spatt, the former owner and president of a Lackawanna County business who is accused of improperly storing hazardous waste.
This alleged conduct contributed to a massive fire at Spatt's former business, Scranton Cooperage, that put firefighters, emergency personnel and others at risk.
The criminal charges filed against Spatt, 52, followed an extensive investigation by the Office of Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit.
The investigation determined that Spatt in 2000 received documentation making him aware that waste sodium chlorite was a potentially hazardous substance. But he allowed storage drums containing the substance to be stored at his business for approximately 13 years, allowing the drums to deteriorate, investigators allege.
"The conduct of this individual put hundreds of people in grave danger," Attorney General Kane said. "There is a reason there are regulations governing the storage of dangerous waste. We will continue to prosecute the people who ignore those rules and put others at risk."
According to a criminal complaint, Spatt's business reconditioned various types of used containers, including storage drums. The business was located at 1264 Mid Valley Drive, Jessup.
The fire ignited at the business on June 27, 2014, requiring a response from more than 200 firefighters and emergency personnel. Firefighters at one point had to evacuate the area of the fire due to exploding drums.
The fire also caused the evacuation of a nearby housing development, investigators stated in a criminal complaint.
The Office of Attorney General's investigation included a review of an environmental cleanup of the Scranton Cooperage site, which confirmed waste sodium chlorite was present on the property.
The state Department of Environmental Protection, which filed a compliance order against Spatt in 2008, further confirmed that Spatt had never applied for or received a permit to store, process, treat or dispose of solid waste at the business.
That conduct allegedly led to the fire, which was ignited when the plant manager at Scranton Cooperage accidentally punctured a storage drum containing sodium chlorite as he was operating a forklift, investigators stated.
Additionally, according to the criminal complaint, investigators determined Spatt in 2000 had received a material safety data sheet, which identified waste sodium chlorite as a potentially hazardous substance.
The documentation also included information on how the substance should be stored, including the fact that its shelf life is a maximum of two years.
Spatt, 420 North Spy Road, South Abington Township, is charged with three counts each of failure to manage hazardous waste and unlawful conduct, as well as one count each of causing catastrophe, risking catastrophe, failure to prevent catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person.
His bail was set at $100,000 unsecured following a preliminary arraignment today. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 29.
The Office of Attorney General thanked the state Department of Environmental Protection for its assistance with this investigation.
The Office of Attorney General assumed jurisdiction of this case after receiving a formal referral from the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office.
This case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Brian Coffey of the Office of Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit.
A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
NewsClip:AG Files Charges In 2014 Scranton Cooperage Fire