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Waste Management Sued By Government Over Solid Waste Disposal

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The Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sued Waste Management of Wisconsin, Inc. (WM) on Wednesday for injunctive relief and civil penalties for alleged violations of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, also known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  WM allegedly “accepted and disposed” of hazardous waste at a landfill without a permit and without complying with federal or state hazardous regulations.

The case was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and has been assigned to Judge Lynn Adelman.  The DOJ stated its complaint that WM accepted and disposed of “electric arc furnace dust contaminated with chromium, a known human carcinogen, at the Metro Landfill.”  The Metro Landfill is located in Franklin, Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee.

The RCRA establishes a “cradle-to-grave” regulatory program from the management and disposal of solid and hazardous waste that is overseen by the EPA and the states.  Under the RCRA and Wisconsin law, it is illegal to without a permit to dispose of hazardous wastes, such a chromium, in the ground.  With a permit, extensive regulations must be adhered too. 

WM accepted several forms of industrial waste from a steel casting foundry, the Maynard Steel Casting Company, of Milwaukee.  Maynard operates four electric arc furnaces (EAFs) to melt scrap metal into molten form; the furnaces have pollution control mechanisms that filter out hazardous matter.  Laboratory testing conducted in 2009 and later showed hazardous EAF baghouse dust contained chemical elements including barium, cadmium, and chromium. All of these are identified under the RCRA as hazardous materials.  As stated in the complaint, “[c]hromium is a known human carcinogen. In addition, workplace exposure to chromium may cause lung cancer and damage to the nose, throat, lungs, eyes, and skin.” 

Furthermore, the DOJ alleged from 1999 through 2009, WM accepted “hundreds of tons of hazardous EAF baghouse dust in over 100 shipments from Maynard Steel.”  During that time WM was required to comply with the terms and conditions of a written “Special Waste Management Program plan developed by WM to satisfy the Wisconsin laws.  That plan mandated review and analysis, which included testing of ‘special wastes’ covered by the plan every five years.”  Maynard engaged in multiple processes at this plant, which all generated separate wastes that required individual testing.  However, WM allegedly failed to identify and separately test any of the EAF baghouse dust since 1990.  Additionally, in 2006 WM made a variance to the plan allowing Maynard to continue sending hundreds of tons of hazardous waste, and WM claimed the contents had “been tested numerous times” with “no changes to the process” and that “no testing is necessary.” 

The DOJ is seeking injunctive relief to make WM comply with the federal and state regulations under the RCRA, as well as for the court to assess civil penalties for each day of violations.

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