Washington County Jailer Arrested On Suspicion Of Environmental Crimes

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WASHINGTON COUNTY (KFSM) — A Washington County detention officer was arrested Thursday (Jan. 21) on suspicion of several environmental crimes.

According to the detention center roster, Melinda Sanders, 30, was booked into the Washington County Detention Center, on hold for Madison County.

According to the arrest report, authorities noticed burning up the hill in front of her house near Highway 74 in Wesley. More burning trash was discovered behind her house, and Sanders said she did not know anything about it.

Chief Mike Harp with Boston Mountain Solid Waste management stated in the report that household trash was being burned on her property, as well as 300 salvaged and broken computer monitors all containing lead and mercury, creating a hazardous waste site.

Authorities also found 15-20 spools of Romex that was illegally burned and 376 pounds of uncoated wire. The wire ran into a pond with broken computers in it, which flows into Richland Creek. Romex is a brand of non-metallic sheathed cable that is typical used for residential and light commercial construction.

The arrest report stated that some evidence on Sanders’ property was being investigated as stolen, citing that the amount of wire that had been illegally burned.

She was arrested on suspicion of the following felony charges:

  • disposal at an unpermitted site,
  • constructing a processing or disposal facility without a permit,
  • managing waste in a manner or place to create or likely create a public health hazard or air pollution,
  • unlawful action to knowingly cause air pollution.

She has been released from the Washington County Detention Center after being cited. A detention officer stated the Madison County Jail does not hold female prisoners.

MelindaSanders

Kelly Cantrell, the public information officer for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said Sanders has been placed on administrative leave.

Sanders is renting the contaminated property from her parents, but has control over what happens on the property because she is the renter, according to the arrest report.

5NEWS spoke with Dr. Miriam Lonon, manager of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Arkansas, on Friday.

She said she couldn’t comment on Sander’s case specifically, but said the materials can cause quite a bit of harm.

“There’s often the potential for some toxic and very obnoxious gases to be given off,” said Lonon. “Then it becomes a matter of air quality and air pollution.”

Lonon said all waterways flow into area watersheds, which could create a host of problems.

“It ends up in the water that may be used for municipalities. It may be used for human consumption,” said Lonon. “We need to conserve our pure water because polluted water as we have recently been made aware of, is a very serious problem.”

There are two other suspects connected to the hazardous waste situation on the property. The arrest report lists Brandon Lee Harris, 39, and Michele Ann Vandine as having committed environmental crimes on Sanders’ property.

Harris is related to Sanders and lists his registered sex offender address as being next door to Sanders’ home on the same property, according to the arrest report.