CASE UPDATE: Former Owner of Lackawanna County Business Sentenced to 11 ½ to 23 Months in Prison on Environmental Crimes Charges

March 26, 2019 | Topic: Criminal

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that the former owner and president of a Lackawanna County business who illegally stored and disposed of hazardous waste was sentenced to 11 ½ to 23 months in prison and ordered to pay environmental fines of $8,000 and $20,000 in restitution to the local Jessup fire departments.

Eric Spatt, 55, of Spy Road, South Abington Township, PA was charged with failing to properly manage hazardous waste at his business, Scranton Cooperage, in April 2017. The defendant pled guilty to risking a catastrophe, hazardous waste violations and illegal disposal in December 2018. An investigation revealed Spatt did not have the necessary permits from DEP to store or dispose of hazardous waste.

A large fire occurred at Scranton Cooperage in June 2014, which caused the evacuation of a nearby housing development and put many firefighters, emergency personnel and local civilians at risk. The fire was caused by an employee accidentally puncturing a drum of sodium chlorite while operating a forklift, which caused a chemical reaction.

“Pennsylvanians have a right to clean air and water, and my Office will not tolerate anyone who acts with such disregard for the laws protecting our environment,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Illegally storing and disposing of hazardous waste creates serious danger for communities. Thank you to the local fire departments in Jessup for their fast response to the fire caused by this man’s reckless actions—their response prevented damage to nearby homes of families who were forced to evacuate.”

Spatt was initially charged in June 2016 with storing the hazardous waste at his former business without obtaining the proper permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Further investigation after the filing of the initial charges led agents to confirm that Spatt had failed to properly manage hazardous waste since 2004.

This case was referred to the Office of Attorney General by Lackawanna County District Attorney Andrew Jarbola.

This case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Brian Coffey of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit.

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