Chico businessman pleads guilty to 3 charges related to dumping asbestos on his property – Chico Enterprise-Record


OROVILLE — A Chico man pleaded guilty to three charges related to a February 2020 incident in which he transported asbestos from commercial buildings he owned to his residential property, where investigators determined he dumped the toxic material into a hole.

Richard E. Parks, 71, of Chico, pleaded guilty in the Butte County Superior Court to transporting hazardous materials without a permit and improper disposal of hazardous materials, in addition to a misdemeanor charge of endangering a state waterway.

According to court records, Parks initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2020, before officially changing his plea on Thursday.

A resident in north Chico contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in February 2020 regarding a man, later identified as Parks, who appeared to be dumping “suspicious” waste on his own property, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said in a press release.

On the morning of Feb. 29, a Fish and Wildlife warden contacted Parks at his residential property as Parks was in the process of dumping the contents of a dump truck into a large freshly dug hole on the property. The warden observed multiple bags labeled “asbestos” in the hole and contacted the Butte County District Attorney’s Office and its environmental crimes investigator to assist.

Later, an environmental scientist tested the bags and confirmed they did, in fact, contain the toxic and carcinogenic substance, the DA’s Office said. Parks’ property was locked down by law enforcement and treated as a crime scene thereafter.

Investigators from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Department of Toxic Substance Control in Sacramento and the District Attorney’s Office served a search warrant at Parks’ property, took more samples of the material and took steps to mitigate the materials from spreading further, Ramsey said.

Investigators learned Parks had removed the asbestos from buildings he owned at the North Valley Plaza and transported the substance to his own residential property, though lacked the proper permits or authorization needed to transport the asbestos. The DA’s Office also asserted the asbestos was dumped in a manner that could cause it to become airborne and threaten other nearby residences.

Ramsey also said the dumping location was a drainage into nearby Rock Creek, and investigators found another location on the property that contained asbestos Parks allegedly dumped several years earlier.

The DA’s Office and the DTSC ordered Parks to have all the asbestos professionally removed by an independent environmental cleanup company, which he paid for. The process took several months and the DTSC monitored it. Ramsey said the cleanup cost Parks more than $230,000 and the DTSC has now considered property safe from asbestos.

Ramsey said Parks’ sentence will include formal felony probation with 120 days in Butte County Jail and a $100,000 fine. Parks will also be responsible for fees associated with testing neighboring properties to determine if they were affected by the asbestos dumping, in addition to any cleanup that may become necessary for those properties. The process has already begun, Ramsey said.

Ramsey also suggested that had Parks chosen to dispose of the asbestos in a legal and proper way, it would have cost him $10,000. But between cleanup and criminal fees, Parks is likely to pay more than $330,000 all combined.

Parks is due back in court on July 22 to begin his sentence and confirm any further restitution.

A message to Parks’ attorney, Matthew C. Bently, was not returned by press deadline.


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