Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 13:35:35 -0500
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**>
Subject: UW professor pleads guilty in waste case

There's been quite a string of media reports related to Chemical  
Health and Safety in the press this week...

- Ralph 

UW professor pleads guilty in waste case
By Nick Perry
Seattle Times staff reporter

A respected University of Washington pharmacology professor became a  
felon Wednesday when he acknowledged dumping a flammable substance  
down a laboratory sink and then trying to conceal his actions.

Daniel Storm, 62, pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the  
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by flushing about four liters  
of the solvent ethyl ether. He faces a maximum five years in prison  
and a $250,000 fine when sentenced June 18, although prosecutors have  
recommended probation under the terms of a plea agreement.

Storm, who continues to work at the university, has been there nearly  
30 years and has enjoyed a "very productive" career, said Tina  
Mankowski, a spokeswoman for the UW School of Medicine.

"It was just a stupid mistake," Storm said Wednesday. "I've had a  
perfect record here. I've admitted this and said, 'I'm sorry.' "

"The University of Washington views this as a serious event, and  
accordingly, a faculty disciplinary process is under way," Mankowski  
said. "A range of remedial and/or disciplinary actions is under  

The plea agreement states that in June 2006, UW health and safety  
inspectors found three metal and two glass containers of ether in  
Storm's lab which, because of the age of the substance, required  

But Storm balked at the estimated $15,000 cost, which would have come  
out of a lab operations fund. So later that month he took an ax to  
some of the containers and flushed the contents down the sink,  
according to the agreement. He kept one container intact.

Where the sink drains is not clear.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Oesterle said Storm then tried to cover  
himself by preparing a false voucher from a fictitious company  
indicating he'd properly disposed of the substance. UW inspectors  
discovered the voucher was fake and alerted authorities; when  
confronted, Oesterle said, Storm admitted his actions.

Oesterle said there is no misdemeanor charge for this particular type  
of crime. It's unusual to charge someone who has dumped such a small  
volume, Oesterle said, but he found Storm's actions particularly  

Using the ax was particularly dangerous, Oesterle added, because a  
spark could easily have ignited the ether.

"Someone in that position ought to know better and appreciate the  
risks of improper disposal, and follow the correct procedures  
regardless of expense," Oesterle said.

"He also took steps to cover it up, which we consider egregious."

Storm said he used the ax "just because it was handy" and because the  
lids on some containers were stuck tight.

"I knew what I'd done was probably wrong, but I didn't realize the  
penalties," Storm said. "This is a totally strange thing for me."

Mankowski said inspectors routinely attempt to check the health and  
safety of every UW lab at least once a year.

The disposal cost was a "high-end" estimate from an outside company  
which might have been reduced if other labs also needed to dispose of  
hazardous materials at the same time.

Mankowski said she was unaware of any similar incidents at the  

Acute exposure to ethyl ether, which was once used as a general  
anesthetic, can cause irritation of the nose and eyes, dizziness,  
acute excitement, drowsiness and vomiting, according to the U.S.  
Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration Web  

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry**At_Symbol_Here**

Copyright  2007 The Seattle Times Company

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