State and federal regulators are putting pressure on an Iowa CRT processor they say has illegally stockpiled glass and allowed lead to contaminate the ground.
The U.S. EPA has launched an enforcement action against Recycletronics, based in Sioux City, Iowa, after concluding the company is storing CRTs in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Regulators with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), meanwhile, have referred their concerns to the state’s attorney general for enforcement of alleged violations that fall under state jurisdiction. The state also claims Recycletronics has stopped making payments on a state business development loan it received to purchase equipment.
State regulators estimate Recycletronics has more than 16.9 million pounds of CRT glass and intact CRT devices stored between six sites, according to data provided to E-Scrap News.
Recycletronics, which shut down during the past few months, processed scrap electronics and sent them to downstream outlets. According to information compiled by the EPA, Recycletronics’ downstream CRT glass outlets were Ohio- and Arizona-based Closed Loop Refining and Recovery, and Calexico, Calif.-headquartered Technologies Displays Americas.
Until Recycletronics’ closure, the business operated its main facility on a site leased from Waste Management in Sioux City, where some of the materials remain. It also has material at five additional sites in Sioux City and its surrounding areas, according to DNR documents.
Recycletronics owner Aaron Rochester has asked for more time to clean up the stockpiles. He noted that he continues to pay workers to clean the sites but that his funds are limited since the business has gone under, according to the Sioux City Journal.
State investigators determined that, except for the main facility, all locations were “unauthorized, unpermitted sites.”
Recycletronics has drawn the attention of regulatory agencies since at least 2014, when the DNR received complaints about the operation and conducted an inspection, according to an agency report. Regulators contacted the U.S. EPA with concerns that RCRA violations were taking place. An EPA inspector visited the business multiple times during 2015 and 2016 and reported the company would not provide requested records.
Inspectors from both the state and federal agencies made unannounced visits to the main Sioux City site in late 2016 and documented violations, including broken storage containers and leaded glass stored in piles on the ground outside the warehouse. They issued a letter notifying the business it was out of compliance, and in January 2017 the DNR declined to renew Recycletronics’ permit to accept CRTs at its main site until the violations were fixed.
The e-scrap company “did not comply with any of the requirements of the letter,” according to the DNR.
State regulators demanded the main Sioux City site be shut down, and in early April, EPA investigators searched that site as well as five additional locations where the business was storing e-scrap materials. CRT glass was found on some of the sites. In some cases, leaded and non-leaded glass were mixed together, and glass “may have been burned and buried” on one site.
The federal inspectors “found widespread lead soil contamination due to broken leaded glass disposed of on the ground,” according to DNR documents, prompting concerns of further RCRA violations.
State inspectors documented more non-compliance at the main Sioux City site in May, and in June, the U.S. EPA reported evidence that the business had accepted shipments of CRTs after being directed not to by regulators, according to the DNR.
Attorney general takes over
By July, the DNR requested the matter be handed over to the Iowa Attorney General. The agency said state enforcement “is necessary to address violations of state law that will not be addressed in the federal action,” as well as to settle a separate case regarding a state recycling business development loan.
The company “has ceased making payments and has retained all of the equipment purchased with the loan funds,” the DNR wrote in a report. The loan was used to purchase an auto cutter, glass crusher and other equipment. The department recently visited the facility and “found the equipment to be unrecoverable due to being in very poor condition.”
At a hearing this week, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission approved transferring the case to the attorney general, according to the DNR.
Rochester did not respond to email and phone messages from E-Scrap News seeking comment.
According to the Sioux City Journal, Rochester appeared at the commission hearing and asked for more time to clean up the grounds.
“This company is closed and we are cleaning up the sites,” Rochester said, according to the newspaper. “What I’m asking for is to buy us a little more time to continue to work … and to come back in a year and show what we’ve done.”
More stories about regulation/oversight
- BAN director gives his take on recent Basel amendment
- Treaty tightens regulations on global e-scrap trade
- South Carolina passes overhaul of e-scrap recycling