ROCKY RIVER, Ohio - The owner of a Strongsville business is accused of dumping gallons of liquid cyanide into a storm drain, killing thousands of fish in the Rocky River in the spring.
The four-count federal indictment was announced on Wednesday during a news conference at the Cleveland Metroparks' Rocky River Nature Center.
Federal Prosecutors said Renato Montorsi, 79, tried to dispose of a drum of liquid cyanide by putting it in a dumpster of his company Kennedy Mint on Pearl Road in April. When the garbage company refused to take the container marked as a hazardous material, Montorsi used a hammer to put a hole in the 55-gallon drum and emptied it into a storm drain. That drain feeds into the Rocky River.
"He decided to use the river behind us as his own personal dump," said U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach. The cyanide killed nearly every single fish in a three mile area, with more than 30,000 dead.
Within days of the fish kill, an anonymous tip led investigators to Kennedy Mint.
"I've been here doing this kind of work for over 10 years," Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson. "We've never had anything that approached this kind of devastation to the river."
Montorsi and his company, Kennedy Mint, Inc. were both charged with four counts, including violation of the Clean Water Act, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Montorsi's wife, 74-year-old Teresina Montorsi, was also indicted with participating in the cover-up.
The indictment said she helped hide the drum at their Grafton home. The couple sells collector coins and officials were not sure if the liquid cyanide is used for cleaning. It also used to run a printing operation.
The Rocky River from the Bonnie Park picnic area to the Cedar Point Road picnic area was affected by the dumping. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said most of the fish killed were smaller because the river was freshly stocked with trout and other sport fish.
Included in the kill were several dozen Central Big Mouth Shiners, a fish that in Ohio is threatened. Environmental officials on hand said the fine for that fish is $1,000 per fish.