Lawsuit alleges owner failed to properly dispose of 17 million pounds of e-waste in Iowa and Nebraska, including hazardous waste; estimated cleanup cost in Iowa is $1.5 million
(SIOUX CITY, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller Monday filed a lawsuit against the Sioux City owner of several defunct electronic waste recycling businesses, alleging that for years he and his companies collected waste disposal fees and then illegally stored or disposed of millions of pounds of electronic components, including hazardous waste.
The lawsuit, filed in Woodbury County District Court, alleges Aaron Rochester and his companies, including Recycletronics—Disabled Veterans at Work, Siouxland PC, and The Name Ministries, illegally dumped and stored waste at licensed and unlicensed locations in Sioux City and Akron, Iowa, and South Sioux City, Nebraska.
Rochester is a former Sioux City council member and former city environmental advisory board member.
The electronic waste includes cathode ray tubes (CRTs), which are glass tubes used in older television and computer screens, in addition to other electronic components. CRTs contain lead, and other electronic components can contain mercury or polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), all of which are toxic.
According to the lawsuit, the properties contain an estimated 17 million pounds of electronic waste, including more than 12 million pounds in Iowa and another 4.5 million pounds at two sites in Nebraska.
Following unannounced joint inspections in December 2016 conducted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a follow-up DNR inspection in March, the DNR revoked the defendants’ CRT recycling permit and ordered Recycletronics not to accept additional waste.
In June, the lawsuit alleges, the DNR obtained evidence that Recycletronics accepted additional waste after the state revoked its permit.
The lawsuit also alleges that from 2013-2016, Recycletronics submitted false reports to the state about its disposal activities.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Rochester and his former business owe the state more than $75,000 for a 2011 loan for equipment used to recycle electronic waste.
In November, Rochester and one of his companies, Siouxland PC, entered into a settlement with the EPA, called a consent order, which requires Rochester to remove and properly dispose of all illegally disposed-of materials at its facilities by set deadlines. Rochester is also required to provide documentation of the disposals.
Miller’s lawsuit seeks unspecified civil penalties, a court-ordered removal of solid waste according to state environmental laws, a permanent injunction that prohibits future violations of certain state laws, and a judgment for the unpaid balance of the 2011 state loan.