Well-known artists indicted on hazardous waste charges
The El Dorado County Criminal Grand Jury indicted three officers of Bennett Sculpture Monday on eight felony counts of improper disposal of hazardous waste in connection with their bronze sculpture foundry outside of Placerville.
The indictment alleges violations of California’s health and safety code for the transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste from January 1996 to present. Tommy Lareece Bennett, Bobby Maurice Bennett, and Warren Kearfott, all named in the indictment, are accused of using fans to blow waste from the foundry building on Greenstone Road into the surrounding environment resulting in copper contamination.
According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, copper is particularly toxic to aquatic species and chronic ingestion can cause hemolysis fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver in humans.
The foundry is also accused of placing the hazardous waste into Dumpsters and plastic bags, both inappropriate receptacles.
Jim Brunello, attorney for the sculpture company, said his clients have not yet had an opportunity to review the charges.
“The Bennett brothers are self-trained artists not businessmen,” Brunello said. “They have always done all they’re able within their financial abilities to comply with environmental regulations.”
Brunello said the brothers have created nationally recognized bronze sculptures for decades and have a national group of collectors.
Investigators said the extent of the contamination hasn’t been determined. The case was investigated by the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department and the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Both the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office will be prosecuting the case.
The Bennetts and Kearfott, are scheduled to be arraigned in El Dorado County Superior Court on Jan. 4.
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