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For immediate release --January 29, 1999.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699
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Additional environmental crime charges are filed against Gilbert Thomas, doing business as Des Moines Septic Service in Altoona

DES MOINES -- Gilbert Thomas of Altoona was charged Wednesday with additional environmental crime offenses, including ongoing criminal conduct in connection with Thomas's business of hauling and disposal of petroleum waste and hazardous substances. Thomas turned himself in voluntarily Friday morning and a warrant for his arrest was withdrawn.

Thomas does business as Des Moines Septic Service and A-1 Septic Service at 4761 NE 80th Street in Altoona.

The ongoing criminal conduct charge is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Authorities also obtained a seizure warrant and seized two trucks Wednesday alleged to have been used in illegal business activities by Thomas.

Thomas also was charged with one count of knowingly discharging a pollutant into groundwater and one count of knowingly discharging a pollutant into a sanitary sewer, each an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $50,000. Larry Thomas, Gilbert's brother and owner of Iowa Sanitation and Environmental Services, 3009 East Walnut, Des Moines, also was charged with illegal storage of hazardous waste, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Thomas was charged July 17, 1998, with two counts alleging illegal transportation of hazardous wastes and two counts of illegal discharge of hazardous wastes, each an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Thomas also was charged then with one count of discharging a pollutant into water of the state, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $50,000. Those charges are pending.

The new charges were filed today by the Attorney General's Office and the Polk County Attorney in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration. Local fire and water officials also cooperated in the investigation.

According to court documents, the investigation by various authorities began last May after the Altoona Fire Dept. responded to a report of an unusual discharge into a creek in eastern Polk County. The discharge was traced to Thomas's business property at 4761 NE 80th Street in Altoona. A search of the property revealed hazardous waste stored illegally in a semi-tanker. 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Administration has been working on remediation and clean-up of the SE 28th St. and Altoona sites since last year.

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