Illegal Dumping in Utah Waterways

Almost 3 million gallons of toxic waste is making its way to Lake Powell and residents affected are questioning the consequences of illegal dumping in Utah waterways.

The EPA’s illegal accidental dumping

Photo by: Sharon Mollerus

Photo by: Sharon Mollerus

Last Wednesday, the EPA had a group working cleanup detail on a Colorado mine. During the cleanup, the group accidentally made a bigger mess when they broke a dam inside the mine that was holding back a large amount of toxic waste. Once released, the waste dumped into nearby Cement Creek and has been working its way down the San Juan River toward Lake Powell.

Complications of the toxic waste

The mustard yellow toxic waste released into the waterways contains harmful chemicals and metals such as aluminum, arsenic, lead, and copper. These pollutants not only make the water undrinkable for human consumption, skin exposed to it can become extremely irritated as well. Its effects on vegetation and wildlife is unknown at the time, however toxic is toxic; damage is imminent. These toxins are predicted to settle into riverbeds, where they will remain for an indefinite period of time. How long it will be until the water is “safe” to swim or drink has not been determined.

Polluting our water

Utah code 19-5-107 states “except as provided in this chapter or rules made under it, it is unlawful for any person to discharge a pollutant into waters of the state or to cause pollution which constitutes a menace to public health and welfare, or is harmful to wildlife, fish or aquatic life, or impairs domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, or other beneficial uses of water, or to place or cause to be placed any wastes in a location where there is probable cause to believe it will cause pollution.” The Navajo Nation, which uses the San Juan River for a culinary resource near Mexican Hat, Utah is already having drinking water shipped in for residents. They are predicting the cleanup of the toxic murk will be severely difficult and time consuming. How much this will cost or the extent of the damage isn’t even fathomable at this time.

Charges against EPA unlikely

Consequences for illegal dumping in Utah waterways can range from a class A misdemeanor to a 2nd degree felony for those that are actually held accountable. This depends on a variety of issues such as how toxic the discarded waste is and whether or not the person or business has been convicted of illegal dumping before. Since the EPA is a federal company, they are unlikely to face criminal charges for the illegal dumping in Utah waterways; however the Navajo Nation is planning on suing for costs and damages.

Not the same drain

While most Utah residents wouldn’t intentionally dump anything foreign into a river or lake, many don’t think twice about the difference between washing dishes in the sink and washing their car in the driveway. What goes down the drain in the home goes to a completely different place from than runoff outside the home. Regarding these different water systems, the Salt Lake County Health Departments states:
“The sanitary sewer is the system that takes wastewater from your sinks, toilets, showers, dishwashers and washing machines to the water treatment plant. There the pollutants in the water are either removed or reduced to acceptable levels and then the treated water is discharged into the river.
The storm sewer system is used to drain rainwater and snowmelt off the streets, parking lots, driveways, etc. This water goes directly into the nearest stream, river, pond, lake or canal without any treatment whatsoever, so dumping soapy water into the gutter is no different than dumping it into the nearest creek.”

Protect yourself from charges

Those persons caught dumping chemicals into rivers, streams, or lakes are guilty of illegal dumping in Utah waterways. Also guilty are those who wash cars, clean driveways, pressure wash exterior of homes and rinse oil or other chemical containers and let waste water go into the gutters or storm drains. For more information on illegal dumping in Utah waterways or for legal counsel regarding charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Marijuana Cultivation in Utah

Four young adults were arrested in Cache County, Utah for multiple drug charges including marijuana cultivation.

Photo by: Mark

Photo by: Mark

Drug Raid in Northern Utah

During a raid on a Logan Utah home on July 21st 2015, four people between the ages of 18 and 21 years old were arrested when officers arrived at the home in the early morning hours with a search warrant.  Located inside with the four individuals were two pounds of marijuana, mushrooms, and two marijuana plants.  Since the plants were found, marijuana cultivation will be added to the possession charges.

Illegal gardening

Whether it’s a mini garden consisting of a couple plants in a home closet or hundreds of plants spread across acres of land, marijuana cultivation is against the law in the state of Utah.  While neighboring states may be relaxing laws regarding possession and marijuana cultivation, Utah so far has not.  Those found guilty of marijuana cultivation can face up to five years in prison.

Law and penalties for marijuana cultivation

Utah code 58-37-8 states that “it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally produce, manufacture, or dispense, or to possess with intent to produce, manufacture, or dispense, a controlled or counterfeit substance.”  Any person found violating this law in regards to marijuana is guilty of a 3rd degree felony while repeat offenses would be 2nd degree felonies.

In due time

Excluding the nineteen states where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes; four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use as well.  All of those states where recreational marijuana use is legal are surrounding Utah in the western United States.  It’s just a matter of time before the majority of the states including Utah have similar laws.  Until then, possession or marijuana cultivation is not worth the consequences.  For more information on marijuana laws, or to seek counsel regarding possession or marijuana cultivation charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Burglary and Robbery

When a thief breaks into a home and the resident is there, the burglary may turn into robbery instead.  Burglary and robbery are often used interchangeably and although they are both property crimes, the two are different according to Utah state law.

Photo by: Tim Samoff

Photo by: Tim Samoff

Burglary defined

Utah code 76-6-202 states that “An actor is guilty of burglary who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or any portion of a building with intent to commit: a felony, theft, […]”. Someone can commit burglary by breaking into a house while the homeowners are away on vacation.  Burglary, or breaking and entering, doesn’t necessarily have to involve the victim themselves, just their home and their belongings.

Robbery in comparison

76-6-301 states “A person commits robbery if: the person […] takes or attempts to take person property in the possession of another from his person, or immediate presence, against his will, by means of force or fear […]”.  Therefore to be considered robbery, a victim must be present at the scene of the crime and feel threatened or forced to give up their belongs by the intruder.  Likewise, robbery doesn’t have to involve a dwelling or building whereas burglary does.

Penalties for burglary and robbery

76-6-202 defines burglary as a 3rd degree felony “unless it was committed in a dwelling, in which event it is a second degree felony.” Robbery, whether it takes place in a dwelling or in public is always a 2nd degree felony as it involves another person directly.  If convicted, burglary and robbery charges can bring lengthy prison time.  Many criminals with a history of theft don’t fully understand the ramifications when they directly involve the victim or intrude on someone’s home. For anyone facing burglary and/or robbery charges, communicate with a criminal defense attorney immediately.