OROVILLE – A man from Chico has pleaded guilty to three counts related to a February 2020 incident in which he transported asbestos from commercial buildings he owned to his residential property, where investigators have determined that he had dumped the toxic material into a hole.
Richard E. Parks, 71, of Chico, pleaded guilty in Butte County Superior Court to transporting hazardous materials without a license and improper disposal of hazardous materials, in addition to a charge of the tort of endangering a state waterway.
According to court records, Parks initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2020, before officially changing his plea on Thursday.
A resident of northern Chico contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in February 2020 about a man, later identified as Parks, who appeared to dump “suspicious” waste on his own property, the county attorney said. de Butte, Mike Ramsey, in a press release. .
On the morning of February 29, a fish and wildlife warden contacted Parks at his residential property while Parks was dumping the contents of a dump truck into a large, freshly dug hole on the property. The manager observed several bags labeled “asbestos” in the hole and contacted the Butte County District Attorney’s Office and its environmental crimes investigator for assistance.
Later, an environmental scientist tested the bags and confirmed that they in fact contained the toxic and carcinogenic substance, the prosecutor’s office said. Parks’ property was locked down by law enforcement and subsequently treated as a crime scene.
Investigators from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control in Sacramento, and the district attorney’s office served a search warrant on Parks property, took more samples of the material, and took action to prevent the materials from spreading further, Ramsey mentioned.
Investigators learned that Parks removed asbestos from buildings he owned at North Valley Plaza and transported the substance to his own residential property, although he did not have the necessary permits or authorization to do so. transport asbestos. The prosecutor’s office also claimed that asbestos had been dumped in a way that could cause it to take off and threaten other nearby residences.
Ramsey also said the spill location was a drainage into nearby Rock Creek, and investigators found another location on the property that contained Parks asbestos that was reportedly dumped several years earlier.
The prosecutor’s office and DTSC ordered Parks to have all asbestos professionally removed by an independent environmental cleaning company, which he paid for. The process took several months and the DTSC monitored it. Ramsey said the cleanup cost Parks more than $ 230,000 and the DTSC has now considered the property to be asbestos-safe.
Ramsey said Parks’ sentence would include formal felony probation with 120 days in the Butte County jail and a $ 100,000 fine. Parks will also be responsible for the costs associated with testing neighboring properties to determine if they have been affected by the asbestos spill, in addition to any cleanup that may become necessary for those properties. The process has already started, Ramsey said.
Ramsey also suggested that if Parks had chosen to dispose of asbestos in a legal and proper manner, it would have cost him $ 10,000. But between the cleanup and the criminal charges, Parks is likely to pay more than $ 330,000 in total.
Parks is due back in court on July 22 to begin his sentence and confirm any further compensation.
A message to Parks’ attorney Matthew C. Bently was not returned before the press deadline.