A company agreed to pay a $17,000 fine for trying to sneak hazardous waste past the authorities in Oregon. The company, Jones International Groups, Inc. was caught shipping spent lead-acid batteries to Hong Kong without identifying the materials as either a hazardous waste or a “universal waste.”
Lead-acid batteries are secondary, wet cell batteries, meaning they can be recharged for many uses and they contain liquid. They are the most widely used rechargeable battery in the world. At high levels, lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
The container carrying 129 used batteries was incorrectly identified in shipping paperwork as “mixed metal scrap,” and was returned to the United States upon discovery of the true contents by Hong Kong officials.
Whether an oversight or deliberate manipulation of shipping documents, this error violated several federal hazardous waste management requirements designed to ensure the proper management and transport of universal wastes. Most importantly, the company failed to provide EPA with prior notice of its intent to export the waste to Hong Kong and in doing so, bypassed the process required for Hong Kong to consent to receive universal waste from the U.S. before it can leave the country.
“Companies that collect discarded universal waste must be held accountable to manage these wastes in compliance with our laws which ensure that they will be properly handled, and not sent abroad to countries that have not agreed to receive waste from the U.S.” said Edward Kowalski, EPA’s Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle.
Image Credit: Flickr – ScubaBear68