Dennis Beetham and his company, D.B. Western Inc., have been indicted on both federal and state charges alleging that he illegally dumped hazardous and other industrial waste in Crook County, Ore., the Justice Department announced.

The federal charges allege that Beetham and his company unlawfully mishandled several hazardous wastes. First, the defendants are charged with dumping hazardous polymerized liquid formaldehyde into a cinder cone, a geological formation, on a ranch Beetham owned in Powell Butte, Ore. Second, the defendants are charged with dumping nitric acid into the same cinder cone. Finally, Beetham and his company are charged with storing hazardous polymerized liquid formaldehyde waste at the ranch.

The federal charges each allege a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA regulates the handling of hazardous wastes from "cradle to grave" – that is, from the creation of a waste through its disposal. RCRA prohibits the treatment, storage and disposal of any hazardous waste without interim status or a permit. The RCRA charges are felonies. Each of the four counts carries a maximum prison term of five years.

Formaldehyde is a chemical used in a variety of products ranging from textiles to wood products. When discarded, formaldehyde qualifies as a hazardous waste under RCRA. Nitric acid is used in many industrial settings. However, nitric acid is extremely corrosive, and is considered a hazardous waste under RCRA when discarded.

The state charges against Beetham and D.B. Western were filed in Crook County following an investigation by District Attorney Daina Vitolins. The state indictment alleges that the defendants unlawfully created air pollution, disposed of solid waste without a permit, unlawfully created water pollution and failed to complete a clean-up of a waste site. These charges stem from the defendants’ alleged dumping of vast quantities of non-hazardous industrial waste and household waste into the cinder cone on the Powell Butte ranch; burning the waste; and failing to complete clean-up of the site as directed by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The federal investigation was undertaken jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the Crook County District Attorney, with investigative leadership by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. District Attorney Daina Vitolins was designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney to assist in the federal investigation.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.