For the first time, the State Grand Jury has handed down an indictment for environmental charges.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office announced Tuesday that George Smolen of Anderson has been indicted for violating the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Act and the Pollution Control Act.
The indictment alleges that Smolen improperly stored and dumped large amounts of hazardous waste at a site in Anderson County while owning and operating a company called Flex-A-Form. The Environmental Protection Agency investigated the chemical laboratory located on a frontage road off Interstate 85 near Lake Hartwell in 2011.
Federal environmental crews said some of the chemicals were stored in vats and Mason jars. At least one chemical discovered on the site was picric acid, which is an explosive. EPA records indicate the site leaked “significant runoff’’ into two creeks that flow into the popular lake. Federal officials found arsenic and industrial material in soil samples that were well above safe standards. Arsenic also was found in a nearby creek.
EPA officials said cleaning up the hazardous waste, including the removal of at least 10,000 tons of contaminated dirt, ended up costing more than $2 million dollars. Smolen said he did not have enough money to pay for the damage.
Both charges against Smolen are misdemeanors, but combined are punishable by a maximum of three years in prison plus fines of up to $50,000.
It was the first time a State Grand Jury had ever handed down indictments for environmental violations, a power they received in 2005. Federal prosecutors normally handle environmental cases, but South Carolina is able to indict a business or landowner if more than $2 million in environmental damages occur.