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DOJ Seeks Contempt Order Against Pesticide Manufacturer

The U.S. Department of Justice and the state of Missouri have filed a motion asking a federal court to hold HPI Products Inc., its owner William Garvey, and St. Joseph Properties, LLC, in contempt for failing to comply with a 2011 environmental settlement by illegally storing thousands of pounds of hazardous chemicals in unsafe and dilapidated facilities in western Missouri, according to the their filing. DOJ, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Missouri Attorney General, on behalf of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, filed the motion Feb. 14.

The motion requests that the federal court appoint a receiver to oversee the operation of the defendants' business in compliance with the 2011 consent decree and applicable law. According to DOJ, the defendants own and operate a pesticide formulating business with six facilities in St. Joseph, Mo. The consent decree was intended to resolve violations of federal and state environmental laws and requires the defendants to properly manage large quantities of hazardous wastes generated or stored at its St. Joseph facilities.

A May 2017 court order required the defendants to comply with the 2011 consent decree, but HPI and Garvey continue to store thousands of pounds of uncharacterized, often unidentified, chemicals, some with labels indicating they have been stored for a dozen years or more, according to DOJ, which added that "many of HPI's facilities lack functional fire suppression equipment, two facilities previously suffered partial collapse, one burning down, and many of them are in extreme disrepair and in danger of collapse. Chemical wastes at these facilities are exposed to the elements and are readily accessible to members of the public, posing a significant danger to public health and safety and the environment."

"Today, we are asking the court to hold the defendants in contempt for their utter failure to comply with federal and state hazardous waste laws at their property," said Jeffrey H. Wood, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This is a serious public health and safety matter. We also are asking the court to appoint a receiver to manage the defendants' hazardous wastes in a manner that protects the citizens of St. Joseph, ensures the safety of employees at HPI, and prevents harm to the environment."

"EPA works with companies to assist them in complying with federal environmental laws when we have a willing party," said James Gulliford, EPA Region 7's administrator. "We have passed that stage with HPI and value the diligent work of the Department of Justice in helping EPA carry out our congressional mandate to enforce federal laws that protect human health and the environment."

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