Roanoke Chemical Distributor, Chem-Solv Inc., Pleads Guilty to Illegally Storing and Transporting Hazardous Waste and Agrees to Pay $1.5 Million in Penalties
Chem-Solv Inc. (Chem-Solv), formerly known as Chemicals & Solvents Inc., pleaded guilty today to illegally storing hazardous waste at its facility in Roanoke, Virginia, and to illegally transporting hazardous waste from that facility to another location, Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney John P. Fishwick of the Western District of Virginia announced today.
As a part of the plea agreement, Chem-Solv has agreed to pay a $1 million criminal fine for these violations, as well as an additional $250,000 to fund environmental community service projects. Chem-Solv has agreed to serve five years’ probation, during which time it must develop and implement an environmental compliance plan and be subjected to yearly independent environmental audits. In conjunction with the criminal settlement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a civil settlement with Chem-Solv that requires the company to pay a $250,000 penalty to settle alleged violations of improper hazardous waste storage at Chem-Solv’s Roanoke facility.
Chem-Solv operates a chemical blending and distribution facility on Industry Avenue S.E. in Roanoke as well as distribution facilities in Colonial Heights, Virginia, Rock Hill, South Carolina, and Piney Flats, Tennessee. Chem-Solv is in the business of purchasing chemicals and then reselling them to customers, either directly or after repackaging. As part of its ordinary business practices, Chem-Solv generated hazardous waste. A hazardous waste is waste which, because of its designation, quantity, concentration, or characteristics, poses a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment.
Count one of the information is based on a spill of several hundred gallons of ferric chloride – a hazardous substance – on the Chem-Solv facility in Roanoke in June 2012. Although most of the waste was cleaned up using vacuum trucks, some of the ferric chloride flowed from the Chem-Solv facility onto an adjoining property both before, and during, the cleanup. The pleadings allege that the adjoining property owner was not notified that ferric chloride had leaked onto their property. Chem-Solv then employed a waste transportation company to transport the waste to a disposal facility. Hazardous waste may only be transported by permitted carriers, and it must be properly placarded and be accompanied by a hazardous waste manifest identifying the waste and its characteristics. The pleadings allege that, although Chem-Solv was aware of the hazardous nature of ferric chloride, it did not properly test the waste and instructed the transporter to transport the waste as non-hazardous, without the proper placards and manifests.
Count two of the information charges Chem-Solv with the improper storage of hazardous waste. Chem-Solv was given advance notice of an EPA inspection in December 2013. At the time the advance notice was given, Chem-Solv was storing numerous containers of chemical waste on its facility that should have been disposed of properly. The pleadings allege that Chem-Solv directed its employees to load three trailers with the chemical waste in an attempt to prevent EPA inspectors from discovering it. Two of the three trailers were taken offsite. The third trailer, which was not road worthy, was stored on the Chem-Solv property for almost a year and its contents were discovered by law enforcement officers on Nov. 19, 2014, while executing a search warrant. That trailer was found to contain hazardous waste that Chem-Solv did not have a permit to store on its facility.
“With this plea agreement, Chem-Solv has an opportunity to put its egregious conduct behind it and learn from these mistakes by developing a strong environmental compliance plan, as required,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “The Justice Department and our federal partners will continue to investigate and prosecute anyone whose illegal conduct puts workers and the public at risk of harm from hazardous and toxic materials.”
“A corporation’s concern with the bottom line profit can cause it to cut corners by attempting to circumvent laws that are intended to protect the community and the environment,” said U.S. Attorney Fishwick. “The prosecution of Chem-Solv should send a strong message that such corporate actions will not be tolerated and will be punished.”
“The chemicals in this case are toxic, highly corrosive and acidic, and today’s plea demonstrates that when companies put the public at serious risk, they will be held accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Virginia.
“The guilty plea entered today by Chem-Solv for illegally storing and transporting hazardous waste is a clear signal to those that would seek to circumvent or disregard transportation-related laws and regulations that there are serious repercussions for doing so,” said Regional Special Agent in Charge William Swallow of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.
The investigation was conducted by Special Agents of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. Assistance in the investigation was provided by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Roanoke City Police Department and the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department and the Blue Ridge Environmental Task Force. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennie L. M. Waering, Senior Trial Attorney James B. Nelson of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section, and EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel David Lastra.