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July 1, 1998

Miller Files Environmental Crime Charges against Gilbert Thomas

DES MOINES -- Gilbert Thomas of Altoona was charged today with two criminal charges alleging unlawful transportation and unlawful storage of hazardous waste. Both charges are aggravated misdemeanors, punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 for each count. The charges result from an ongoing investigation of Thomas' company, Des Moines Septic Service of Altoona.

District Court Judge Larry Eisenhauer issued an arrest warrant Friday morning and Thomas was arrested Friday afternoon.

The investigation began in May, after the Altoona Fire Department responded to a report of an unusual discharge into a creek in eastern Polk County. According to documents filed with the criminal complaint, the discharge was traced to Thomas' business property at 4761 NE 80th Street in Altoona. A search of the property revealed hazardous waste stored illegally in a semi-tanker. One criminal charge relates to the illegal storage of hazardous waste in Altoona.

The semi-trailer tanker allegedly was partially emptied at 1013 SE 28th St. in Des Moines and then was moved to 132 SE 32d Court in Des Moines, a residential area. The second charge relates to the illegal transportation of hazardous waste.

The Des Moines Environmental Health Division and the Des Moines Fire Department determined that an emergency removal today of hazardous waste was necessary due to the flammability and toxicity of the material at the SE 32d Court location. Other agencies involved in the emergency response and investigation include the Altoona Fire Department, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The investigation is coordinated by the Attorney General. Charges will be jointly prosecuted by the Attorney General and Polk County Attorney.

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