Michigan Company, Owner Sentenced for Knowingly Violating Hazardous Waste Storage Laws
A Michigan plating company called Electro-Plating Services Inc. (EPS) has been sentenced in federal court to five years of probation and was ordered to pay $1,449,963.94 to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to properly store hazardous waste. The company’s owner, Gary Sayers, was sentenced to one year in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
The company used cyanide, chromium, nickel, chloride, trichloroethylene, and various acids and bases as part of the plating process. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), when EPS is done with these products, they become hazardous waste, which requires handling in compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The act requires the waste be legally transported to a licensed hazardous waste facility.
Instead, Sayers stored the hazardous waste in numerous drums and other containers, including a pit dug into the ground in the lower level of the EPS building in Madison Heights, Michigan.
“This case shows that anyone who chooses to do business with dangerous materials must obey federal laws that protect our fellow Americans and the environment. These defendants’ knowing, illegal storage of waste cyanide, highly corrosive wastes, toxic chromium waste, and reactive wastes posed a significant danger and threat to nearby communities and the environment,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “They disregarded the law and numerous warnings and requests by state authorities to comply with their legal obligations. The Department of Justice will act to protect public health and safety.”
The DOJ release outlined numerous attempts to regulate Sayers’ activity.
Beginning in 1996, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) repeatedly warned Sayers about his illegal handling of hazardous waste. In 2005, Sayers was charged with and pleaded guilty to illegally transporting hazardous waste in state court. During the ensuing years, the MDEQ attempted to get Sayers and EPS to properly manage the amount of hazardous wastes piling up at the Madison Heights location. The MDEQ issued numerous letters of warning and violation notices to the company regarding its hazardous wastes.
In 2016, the MDEQ identified over 5,000 containers of liquid and solid wastes at the Madison Heights location. The city of Madison Heights revoked the company’s occupancy permit that year as well. In January 2017, the EPA initiated a superfund removal action that concluded in January 2018 and cost the agency the nearly $1.5 million, which EPS must pay in restitution.
“Hazardous wastes pose serious risks to the health of entire communities, so it’s imperative they be handled and disposed of safely and legally,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of the EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Michigan. “Today’s sentencing sends a clear signal that EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to the protection of public health and will continue to pursue those who blatantly undermine those efforts.”
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