Former Business Owner To Serve Jail Time For 2014 Chemical Fire

March 26, 2019 GMT

SCRANTON — A South Abington Twp. businessman will serve up to 23 months in prison for charges connected to a 2014 chemical fire that destroyed his business in Jessup and forced firefighters to tackle the rekindling flames for days.

Eric Spatt, 55, 420 North Spy Road, South Abington Twp., pleaded guilty in December to a count of unauthorized processing of hazardous waste and two counts of unlawful conduct.

Several counts of failure to manage hazardous waste and failure to maintain records of the quantity of hazardous waste were dismissed.

Lackawanna County Judge Michael J. Barrasse sentenced Spatt today to 11 ½ months to a year and 11 months in prison as well as fines and $20,000 in restitution to Jessup hose companies.

The hazardous waste he housed for 14 years led to the fire that consumed Scranton Cooperage, an industrial drum cleaning company that Spatt previously owned.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, defense attorney, Patrick Casey, told the court that Spatt takes full responsibility.

“He is a man who has spent his life working and caring for his children,” Casey said. “He gets up at 3 a.m. and goes to New Jersey to work all day and comes home to care for his daughter.”

The business on Mid Valley Drive in Jessup, now known as American Container Processors Inc., is a subsidiary of Kearny Steel Container of Newark, New Jersey, where Spatt is an employee.

“I’m sorry,” Spatt said. “I understand the mistakes I’ve made, and it won’t happen again.”

On June 27, 2014, sodium chlorite ignited after an employee punctured a steel drum with a forklift. The fire summoned 200 emergency workers from 38 different emergency companies to battle the fire, which sent a black column of smoke rising into the sky, kept personnel busy for roughly eight hours and stained water runoff a vibrant purple.

The state attorney general’s office filed a second round of criminal charges against Spatt in 2017, nearly three years after his business burned down and he was accused of violating the Solid Waste Management Act.

Although he didn’t break any laws by keeping the chemicals on site, he had no plans for getting rid of the hazardous waste it produced, the Times-Tribune previously reported.

Contact the writer: drosler@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100, x. 5365; droslerTT on Twitter