WASHINGTON, DC, October 14, 2009 (ENS) – A criminal case that began in 2004 when a man dumped toxic chemicals down the drain in West Bountiful, Utah ended today when he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a Key West, Florida courtroom.

Larkin Baggett, 54, formerly of Salt Lake City, Utah, was sentenced to 20 years for illegally dumping pollutants in violation of federal clean water and hazardous waste regulations and for illegally possessing firearms and aggravated assault on law enforcement officers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice announced.

The sentence includes the maximum jail term for violations of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Baggett owned and operated Chemical Consultants, Inc., North Salt Lake City, Utah, a company that mixed and sold chemical products used in the trucking, construction, and concrete industries and was a large quantity generator of hazardous waste.

According to court records, between October2004 and April 2005 Baggett instructed his employees to dispose of industrial wastes by dumping them onto the ground and into a sanitary sewer drain, which fed to the wastewater treatment plant operated by the South Davis Sewer Improvement District in West Bountiful.

The treatment plant had a permit to discharge treated effluent to the Jordan River, which empties into the Great Salt Lake.

One of the wastes, nonylphenol, is a powerful organic chemical and heavy-duty industrial cleaner that is toxic to aquatic life. Baggett’s actions allegedly caused the wastewater treatment plant to violate its permit limits for acute toxicity 22 times.

The EPA requires that industry pre-treat toxic pollutants chemicals in their wastes in order to protect local sewers and wastewater treatment plants. The pretreatment process also ensures that these pollutants do not pass through the treatment process into rivers, lakes and streams.

Government officials from the local sewer district prohibited Baggett’s company from discharging to the sewer system because its wastes had exceeded limits for certain pollutants, but the dumping continued.

In September 2007, Baggett was indicted on six felony charges related to illegally dumping pollutants onto the ground and into a drain that led to the treatment plant.

In April 2008, two months before his trial, Baggett became a fugitive when he failed to appear in court as required by the conditions of his release and bond. In December 2008, EPA received a tip from a member of the public regarding his potential whereabouts after Baggett was listed on the EPA’s fugitive website.

On March 13, Baggett assaulted EPA and other law enforcement officers when they attempted to arrest him at a trailer park in Marathon Florida. Baggett was wounded in the shootout and taken into custody.

The EPA said their fugitive list was first released in December 2008 and Baggett was the first EPA fugitive arrested.

On April 16, Baggett was charged by a federal grand jury in Miami with assaulting law enforcement officers and illegally possessing eight firearms, including assault rifles, while he was a fugitive from Utah on the environmental crimes prosecution.

On July 6, Baggett pled guilty to possessing the firearms and to assaulting EPA special agents and a Monroe County deputy sheriff with a deadly weapon.

Today, Baggett was sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison, the statutory maximum for the environmental counts – three years for Clean Water Act crimes and five years for hazardous waste crimes – and an additional 12 years for illegally possessing firearms and aggravated assault on law enforcement officers.

“EPA’s professional and dedicated law enforcement special agents are the line in the sand against those who put illegal gain ahead of public health and the environment,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA will continue to vigorously pursue criminal violations of environmental regulations.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.