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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2005

Failed firm's owner receives probation, fine

The owner of a defunct Sylvania Township metal-plating business was sentenced yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for failing to properly dispose of hazardous waste used in the business.

Glenn Metts, 48, who pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor criminal endangering, was placed on probation for one year and fined $1,000 by Judge Jack Zouhary.

Mr. Metts was president and owner of Ohio Surface Technologies, 3618 King Rd. In October, 2003, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency investigators found 55-gallon drums and other containers of corrosive and toxic materials in the building Mr. Metts had leased.

The agency directed the cleanup of 75 to 100 drums of chemicals and sludge that were by-products in the metallic plating operations for coating automotive components.

Joseph Walsh, an attorney for Mr. Metts, told the court the waste was left in the building as a result of a misunderstanding that occurred after Mr. Metts went out of business and dissolved the company in November, 2000.

Mr. Walsh said Mr. Metts wrongly believed a Michigan firm would take care of the waste and sludge, and he wasn't aware of the problem until the EPA was called to investigate. "He mistakenly thought the waste was removed," Mr. Walsh said.

In addition to probation, Judge Zouhary imposed a suspended six-month jail sentence and ordered Mr. Metts to perform 100 hours of community service, specifically in an area that involves environmental programs.

"I think it is important to give back in those areas," Judge Zouhary said. "This could have been a much more serious situation, but it did not turn out that way, fortunately, for everyone involved."

Mr. Metts also was ordered to pay $12,500 in restitution to the Ohio Attorney General and the EPA for investigation and prosecution costs.

In an apology in court, Mr. Metts said he was an "environment-minded individual" and he took responsibility for not following up with the cleanup after shuttering operations. "It was just really an oversight," he said.

However, Mr. Metts criticized state officials for the investigation into the cleanup during an interview outside the courtroom after the hearing. "I think this is an excellent example of overzealous prosecution at taxpayer's expense," he said.

Mr. Metts of 505 Jefferson Ave., Unit 1401, is an assistant professor in marketing and management at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Mr. Metts also entered a guilty plea on behalf of the firm to one count of illegal storage of hazardous wastes, an unclassified felony. Judge Zouhary imposed a $10,000 fine on the company.

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