While not to be faulted for perseverance, the owner of a business specializing in painting small aircraft found that trying again is only a virtue if one’s activities are legal in nature.
In the operation of Gold Metal Paint, LLC (GMP), hazardous waste was generated in the form of solvents (methylene chloride) mixed with paint waste. In an attempt to avoid the cost of proper treatment and disposal, the owner of the business, Norman Teltow, directed his employees to store the solvent waste in an underground storage tank (UST) at its facility in Watkins, Colorado. When Colorado environmental officials became aware that hazardous waste was being illegally stored in this manner, they ordered Teltow to hire a properly licensed hazardous waste management company to pump the waste out of the UST and properly transport it off-site for disposal. Teltow was ordered to clean out the UST and seal off the trench drain that led to it. Although Mr. Teltow hired a licensed company to pump out the UST and had the trench drain sealed, he ordered his own employees to clean out the tank – without any personal protective equipment – resulting in the employees experiencing nausea, headaches and dizziness.
As Mr. Teltow continued to operate his business, he developed a new plan for managing his hazardous waste – he instructed GMP employees to pour the paint waste on the floor of the hangar at the end of each day in hopes that the waste would evaporate – in itself a “disposal” method which violated a number of regulations. This practice proved to be less effective than Mr. Teltow anticipated and the waste did not fully evaporate. Undeterred by his previous difficulties with authorities concerning the storage of hazardous waste in an on-site UST, Teltow re-opened the trench drain by drilling into it, once again filling the UST with hazardous waste.
Teltow would have been better advised to focus his efforts on compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA was passed in 1976, and is the federal law that regulates hazardous waste from the point of generation through its ultimate treatment/disposal (“cradle to grave”). Most states, including Colorado in this case, have enacted laws and implemented regulations that are at least as stringent as the federal RCRA. This particular case was a result of cooperation and coordination between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The Colorado authorities eventually caught up with Teltow, and brought criminal charges against him for violations of hazardous waste regulations. Teltow recently pled guilty to illegally treating hazardous waste at his company’s location and is scheduled for sentencing in June of 2013. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
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