Man arrested in chemical spill

January 10, 2002

Man arrested in chemical spill

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Shepherdstown business owner was charged Wednesday with unlawful disposal of industrial wastes following an incident last August in which 72 bottles of ammonium hydroxide were dumped into Town Run, according to court records.

Fish in the stream died after the chemicals were dumped, police and state environmental officials said.

John G. Shaw, 54, owner of Mountaineer Enterprises, was arraigned on the charge by Jefferson County Magistrate Bill Senseney and released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond, according to court records.

A conviction on the charge carries a possible punishment of one to three years in a correctional facility and a fine not greater than $50,000 for each day of the violation, according to magistrate court records.

A woman who answered the phone at Shaw's house Wednesday declined to comment.

Rhoderick Mills, an inspector with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he responded to Shepherdstown Aug. 30 after receiving complaints about stream pollution and a fish kill, according to magistrate court records.


Mills spoke to Shaw, who said he had directed his son to dump the ammonium hydroxide into Town Run, a stream that meanders through Shepherdstown and empties into the Potomac River about a half-mile away, according to a criminal complaint filed in magistrate court.

Mountaineer Enterprises, which is in downtown Shepherdstown, uses ammonium hydroxide to make blueprints, court records said.

Mills said Shaw told him that ammonia is natural in the environment, and therefore believed he was doing nothing wrong, according to the criminal complaint.

Shaw told Mills that 72 gallon bottles, each about two-thirds full, were dumped into Town Run, the criminal complaint alleged.

"Mr. Shaw stated that he poured some of it out himself and that he had poured it out in the yard previously," Mills said in the criminal complaint.

The chemicals were dumped into Town Run near the Sky's The Limit shop on East German Street, Shepherdstown Police Chief Charles Cole said.

Although Mills said at the time it was unclear how many fish were killed, it appeared about four or five different species of fish died, including rainbow trout and tiger musky.

Many of the fish that were killed floated to the surface or washed up on rocks and they also were found in the stream down to the Potomac River, according to Cole and Mills.

Town Run serves as a secondary source of water for the town in case a problem ever arises with the town getting its drinking water from the Potomac River, Cole said.

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