Former L-Bar Products plant manager Stan McCurdy admitted Wednesday that he illegally buried hazardous chemicals at the plant site south of Chewelah, Wash.
McCurdy, 47, also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiring with others to commit the crime, but was vague about who the co-conspirators were. He suggested he merely accepted the suggestion of a subordinate.
“There was really no agreement to do anything,” McCurdy told U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle. “… I did not discuss this with the company ahead of time.”
McCurdy said an employee - either foreman Greg Rhodes or now-deceased equipment operator Bill Roskum, McCurdy couldn’t remember which - suggested burying numerous barrels containing sulfuric acid sludge. Rhodes has not been charged.
“I guess it just didn’t enter my mind that it might have been considered hazardous (under federal law),” McCurdy said, acknowledging, though, that he knew the acid was dangerous when he ordered it buried in early 1991.
The company, which used acid to recycle magnesium waste, closed in December 1991. Federal officials dug up 80 mostly empty acid barrels in May 1992 after receiving an anonymous tip.
Defense attorney Stephen Farnell volunteered that McCurdy may have discussed the illegal disposal plans with the plant’s assistant manager, Jim Halle. McCurdy told Van Sickle that Halle was present when McCurdy ordered Rhodes to bury the acid barrels.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington declined to comment on the fact that Halle hasn’t been charged, but plant manager Paul Ortman is accused of participating in the conspiracy. However, Harrington and his cocounsel, state Assistant Attorney General Jerry Ackerman, noted that McCurdy’s plea agreement requires him to provide more information about the case.
McCurdy said Wednesday that he told Ortman and possibly others about the illegal disposal after the work was done.
Ortman, a Chewelah resident and former city councilman, and L-Bar itself are accused not only of conspiring to bury the acid illegally, but lying about it in a report to the state Ecology Department. They have not yet entered pleas.
Under the plea bargain with McCurdy, the government will drop a third charge that he violated federal law by failing to report the illegal activity to authorities. The prosecutors agreed to recommend the lightest sentence available under federal guidelines.
Harrington said McCurdy’s sentence recommendation hasn’t been calculated because of complicated federal rules. McCurdy has no criminal record. He lives in Clarkston and operates convenience stores there and in Pullman.
McCurdy is to be sentenced Aug. 4.
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