CHICO – On July 30, 2020, the Butte County District Attorney’s Office announced today criminal charges against a Chico businessman for the unlawful dumping of asbestos in a residential Chico neighborhood.
In February of this year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was contacted by a concerned citizen in north Chico about a man who was seen dumping large quantities of suspicious waste on his property. The man was identified as Richard E. Parks, 70, of Chico. Parks is the owner of several buildings in the North Valley Plaza.
A CDFW warden responded on February 29, 2020 and contacted Parks as Parks was in the process of dumping the contents of a dump truck into a hole on Parks’ residential property in the 3400 block of Keefer Road. In the hole, the warden immediately noticed a number of large bags labeled “Asbestos.” The warden quarantined the scene and contacted the Butte County District Attorney’s Office, which sent a special environmental crimes investigator to assist. An environmental scientist was also called out to test the substance, and it was confirmed the bags contained asbestos, a known toxic and carcinogenic substance. Parks’ property was immediately treated as a crime scene and was locked down by law enforcement.
The following day a search warrant was executed at Parks’ residence by CDFW wardens, investigators from, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control, and the District Attorney’s Office. Additional samples of the waste were taken, and steps were taken to prevent the asbestos from becoming airborne by covering the exposed bags.
“Kudos to the citizen who brought his/her concern to CDFW so this could be investigated, stopped and the material properly disposed of and the disposal area properly cleaned,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “California has law enforcement investigators who work to protect the environment and the public. Many citizens have no idea how many state workers work to protect them from harm. They work silently in the background enforcing laws, codes and regulations to keep us safe.”
Parks is accused of removing the asbestos from properties he owned at the North Valley Plaza and transporting it to his residential property. Parks did not possess any of the proper permits or authorization needed to transport the asbestos and was allegedly dumping the asbestos in a way that could cause it to become airborne and expose other nearby residents to it. The location where Parks allegedly dumped the asbestos is also a drainage into Rock Creek. Investigators also discovered another location where Parks had allegedly dumped asbestos several years ago on his same property.
The District Attorney’s Office has charged Parks with criminal counts of Unlawfully Transporting Hazardous Material and Dumping Hazardous Material, both felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of Endangering a Waterway of the State, to wit, Rock Creek. Parks faces up to four years in jail, plus significant environment fines of $5,000 to $100,000 per day that the asbestos was in the ground. According to the DA, Parks is cooperative and working with an environmental remediation company and the Department of Toxic Substance Control to safely remove the asbestos from his property.
Parks is scheduled to appear in Butte County Superior Court on September 3, 2020 to be arraigned on the charges.