Grubstake Auction owner convicted of spreading hazardous pesticide

Ronald Alleva and his Grubstake Auction Co. have been convicted of reckless endangerment, pollution, and misuse of a pesticide for spreading Zappit 73 along a public right-of-way near downtown Anchorage in an area used extensively by homeless people.

Anchorage police and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Crimes Unit investigated Alleva in June 2018, after an unknown white substance was found spread on the public right-of-way on the ground within a block of Bean’s Café and Brother Francis Shelter. Both facilities, which provide services to hundreds of homeless people, are located near the auction company’s property.

The Anchorage Fire Department’s hazardous materials team investigated and determined that employees of Grubstake Auction Co. had spread the Zappit 73 at the direction of Alleva.

The area was cordoned off and an extensive cleanup ordered, resulting in 1,400 pounds of contaminated soil being removed from the site.

Zappit 73 is a calcium hypochlorite, a dry granular free flowing material that contains chlorine, the same product used in mustard gas during chemical warfare in World War I.

When used legally, it is a rapid source of chlorine-containing disinfectant that protects pools against growth of bacteria and algae to help keep the pool sanitary.

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Product instructions warn that it should not be mixed with other chemicals, including other pool chemicals of any kind, as mixing could cause a fire or explosion.

Zappit 73 is highly toxic to anything organic and highly corrosive. Those using the product legally are advised to wear protective gear to avoid inhaling it, plus long pants, long sleeve shirts, socks and shoes.

An Anchorage jury on April 30 found that Alleva’s conduct, along with that of Grubstake Auction Co. and its employees endangered the health and welfare of individuals, putting those walking in the area at risk of serious physical injury, including blindness and even death, had the substance been ingested. Spreading the Zappit 73 also polluted state lands and would have likely polluted Ship Creek, a popular sport fishing area, if it had rained, the jury found.

Labeling on the product clearly prohibited Alleva and his company from using it in the manner they did, the court ruled.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 21.