FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENR FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 1998 USA: DOJ: George Breitsameter 208-334-1211 Michael

Gordon 202-514-2008

TDD 202-514-1888 OSHA: Bill Wright 202-219-8151



Washington, D.C. A federal grand jury in Idaho indicted a Soda Springs, Idaho man for knowingly endangering the safety and health of his employees and for lying to federal officials, announced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho today. The alleged offenses caused permanent brain damage to an employee of the defendant.

The five count indictment, returned this morning, alleges that Allan Elias ordered employees of Evergreen Resources, a fertilizer manufacturing company he owned, to clean out a 25,000 gallon storage tank that contained cyanide. The allegations state that Elias did not take basic precautions to protect his employees when they entered the confined space of the tank.

Scott Dominguez, a 20 year old employee of Elias, was overcome by hydrogen cyanide gas and sustained permanent brain damage as a result of cyanide poisoning.

"Environmental crimes are real crimes with real victims. There is no excuse for the human tragedy in this case," said Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources Lois J. Schiffer. "This case also should serve as a fair warning to employers who knowingly endanger their employees: you will be

investigated and prosecuted."

Elias pled not guilty to all counts at arraignment this morning.

Before sending his employees to clean the tank, Elias had been advised periodically by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the precautions he needed to take when his employees entered confined spaces such as tanks. Those precautions include testing the tank for hazardous materials, ensuring adequate ventilation, obtaining a permit for entering the confined space of


the tank and providing workers with protective clothing and equipment for easy exit.

"This case represents a prime example of how disregard for worker health and safety causes human tragedy," said Charles N. Jeffress, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

The indictment alleges that Elias did not test atmospheric conditions inside the tank, did not prepare a permit and did not provide his employees with protective gear. Taking these allegations together, Elias is accused of knowingly endangering his employees.

Counts two through five of the indictment allege that Elias (i) illegally disposed of hazardous waste on three separate occasions and (ii) made a false statement to OSHA officials by fabricating and back dating a safety plan to enter the 25,000 gallon storage tank that contained cyanide.

A trial is set for August 31, 1998 before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Pocatello, Idaho.

The maximum penalty for count one of the Indictment is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum for each of counts two through five is five years and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment was the result of a 22 month investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation

Division, the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Also assisting in the investigation was the Department of Environmental Quality for the State of Idaho and the Idaho State Police Department.

An indictment is not evidence, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


98 304