AUSTIN -- Investigators say a business took advantage of Pond Springs Mini Storage in Northwest Austin in the worst way. For six months Bencor Fabrication illegally stored toxic acid in the 10' x 20' storage room.
Those responsible are now facing the consequences. Friday Christine Giese and company Bencor pleaded guilty to Texas water code violations for hazardous waste. The court ordered both to pay a combined $60,000 in fines for improper waste handling.
The investigation began two years ago. Storage management cut a lock off after they hadn't been paid for six months. Inside, they found almost two dozen 55 gallon drums of a strange liquid. Hazmat crews later identified it as toxic acid so strong even inhaling it put people at risk. Environmental investigators later traced it to Bencor's plant in Brenham where they manufacture circuit boards.
"That's the problem. In this case, these drums were delivered and stored at a place which is not permitted," explained Jonathan Gray with Texas Parks and Wildlife. "In Texas when you generate a waste, we have a term that's called 'cradle to the grave.' You are responsible from the point you generate it to the point when it reaches disposal."
Giese later confessed to paying a man to get rid of the waste on his own. He in turn, paid a homeless man in Austin to drop it off at the storage facility.
Authorities stress this incident was a fortunate one in that no one was exposed to the acid. Had any injuries occurred, those responsible could have faced jail time.