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Environment


Grafton man charged in deaths of 30,000 fish
Wife is accused of covering up the cyanide dumping
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
Mill Stream Run Reservation along the Rocky River, where nearly 31,000 fish died this spring.
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In The Region:

A 79-year-old Grafton man, his wife and his company are facing criminal charges of draining a 55-gallon drum of cyanide into the Rocky River, killing nearly 31,000 fish. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on a mystery that began last April.

SCHULTZE: Fish kill charges

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It was Earth Day when visitors noticed the first of thousands of dead turtles, frogs, troutlings and other fish along the East Branch of the Rocky River. They called investigators, who determined that just about all of the fish in a three-mile stretch in that area of the Mill Stream Run Reservation were dead.

Later, they figured out they’d been poisoned with cyanide. And now, according to an indictment released by a federal grand jury, they think they know who done it.

Metal plating left overs
Mike Tobin is spokesman for the U.S. attorneys office.

“Renato Montorsi runs a company called Kennedy Mint, which is located in Strongsville. That company sells collectable coins, but used to be involved in metal plating. And because of that, they had a 55-gallon drum of liquid cyanide that was used in the plating process. In April, according to the indictment, Mr. Montorsi tried to dispose of the 55-gallon drum in the Dumpster, but the drum was labeled as toxic, it had a skull and crossbones on it, and the trash company refused to take it.

“So according to the indictment, Mr. Montorsi takes the 55-gallon drum, moves it to spot in his parking lot over the storm sewer, punches a hole in it and lets the liquid cyanide drain into the storm sewer which then goes directly into the Rocky River.”

State, federal and local investigators
Crews from state, federal and local agencies worked on the spill, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District used dye testing to figure out that the chemical was cyanide and where it came from. 

Tobin says the emptied drum was found at Montorsi’s home, after he and his wife, Teresina, had denied knowing where it was. That’s why they’re facing charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, and he is facing a charge of violating the Clean Water Act.

The Montorsis attorney, Richard Blake, declined to comment, saying he hadn’t had time to review the indictment.

Tobin says the case is unusual, but not unique.

“I don’t recall one as (direct) cause and effect, where you punch a hole, the liquid drains in, and then you have the dead fish. But, the sad reality is that we do deal with companies all the time discharging all sorts of waste.” 

The area of the fish kills is stocked each spring and draws sports fishermen from throughout the region. If he’s convicted, Montorsi could be facing up to 20 years in prison.

 

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