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Anti-pollution nominee was once prosecuted

SHARE Anti-pollution nominee was once prosecuted

A businessman prosecuted for violation of antipollution laws has been appointed to an environmental advisory board.

Donald G. John Christensen, 58, was appointed earlier this year to the Salt Lake City-County Health Department's Environmental Quality Advisory Committee.

The 16-member committee meets monthly and makes recommendations to the Health Department Board on environmental regulations and fees.

Christensen's appointment, which came at the recommendation of County Commissioner Mark Shurtleff, has irked some of the environmental inspectors.

"When I heard about it, I thought it was a joke," said Ted Sonnenburg, a former county hazardous-waste specialist who investigated Christensen. "It's an embarrassment to the department and its employees to allow that nomination."

Shurtleff, a Republican running for state attorney general, said he did not believe Christensen's criminal prosecution was relevant because it had been resolved.

In 1997, the county attorney filed a six-count criminal complaint against Christensen after he refused to comply with state and county rules on disposing and storing hazardous waste. One of the charges was a felony.

Christensen, who also is a member of the Murray City Council, is owner of Salt Lake-based V Environmental Inc. The business cleans out sumps and traps for companies that generate oily, primarily automotive, wastes.

Christensen said he resisted the county inspectors because they were heavy-handed and unreasonable in their approach.

Although Christensen had a permit to transport such waste in 1997, his permit to process or dispose of it expired in 1996, but, according to the charges, Christensen continued to process the waste and dispose of it on his property.

County inspectors found hazardous wastes in a commercial waste bin on his property, according to the charges.

The case was settled through a "diversion agreement," which allows charges to be dismissed after the defendant meets certain conditions.

Christensen paid a $10,000 fine and has made his business conform with the law. There have been no further violations since, said Brian Bennion, a hazardous-waste specialist for the county.

Royal DeLegge, who became director of the Health Department's Environmental Division last year, said he did not know Christensen's history until after Christensen had been appointed to the committee.

In future committee vacancies, DeLegge said, he will run the nominees' names past his staff.

"I see (Christensen) as a law-abiding citizen," Shurtleff said.

Christensen said he wants to serve on the committee to make environmental enforcement more friendly to small businesses.