Companies, Man Sentenced To Pay More Than $2 Million Resulting From International Prosecution

Joel D. Udell and two affiliated businesses, Pyramid Chemical Sales Co. and Nittany Warehouse LP, were sentenced on Feb. 14 to pay more than $2 million in restitution and fines for mishandling hazardous wastes in Pottstown, Pa., and in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, between 1998 and 2000, federal officials announced.

In addition, Udell, who now resides in Boca Raton, Fla., must spend six months in home confinement in Montgomery County, Pa., under electronic monitoring and perform 500 hours of community service in Pottstown.

The defendants had pleaded guilty previously to storing hazardous waste without a permit at the former Nittany Warehouse in Pottstown, Pa., from May 1998 to early 2001, exporting hazardous waste outside the United States without consent of the receiving country on various dates in 2000, and transporting hazardous waste without manifests and to unpermitted facilities in 2000.

The sentences imposed by Judge Bruce W. Kauffman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania included:

  • The defendants are jointly and severally liable to pay $1,243.072.65 to the Dutch government, $409,639.97 to Europe Container Terminals BV, and $150,000 to U.S. EPA. These payments are to made over a five-year period of probation imposed on all the defendants.
  • Udell was fined $100,000 and the two companies each received $50,000 fines.
  • Udell must spend six months home confinement in Montgomery County, Pa., and perform 500 hours of community service in Pottstown, Pa. He must perform at least half of the 500 hours during the six-month home confinement period.
  • Udell must pay a $1,500 special assessment and the companies each must pay a $6,000 special assessment.

"These defendants knowingly mishandled hazardous waste both in Pennsylvania and abroad," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The message is clear: we will pursue criminals demonstrating such willful disregard for the public's safety and the environment -- even when it crosses jurisdictional lines -- and we will continue the collaborative efforts with international authorities to prosecute these crimes."

The charges grew out of the defendants' operation of a surplus chemical brokerage business in Ambler and Pottstown. Beginning in May 1998, Pottstown authorities attempted to get Udell to repair the Nittany Warehouse in Pottstown and to improve storage of thousands of containers of chemicals, including flammable, corrosive and toxic material stored in deteriorated or broken containers and bags. Pottstown ultimately sued Udell and Nittany Warehouse in state court in 1999, obtained a state court order in April, 2000, and EPA wound up forcing the defendants to perform a Superfund cleanup from July 2000 to early 2001.

During that period, the defendants shipped 29 forty-foot containers of aging chemicals to Rotterdam. The containers stayed at the port for three years when the Dutch refused to permit them to be reshipped because of their poor condition, and the defendants refused to have them repackaged and returned to the United States. The restitution imposed as part of the sentences covers the port operator's costs for storing the chemicals for three years, the Dutch government's costs in incinerating almost 300 tons of chemicals at the end of 2003, and EPA's costs in overseeing the warehouse cleanup in Pottstown.

Additional information on the case can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/pae/News/Pr/2005/sep/PyramidInformation.pdf.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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