Selective Structures Pleads Guilty to Hazardous Waste Charges

Selective Structures L.L.C. pleaded guilty and was sentenced on June 8 for illegally storing hazardous waste at its facility in Athens, Tenn., according to Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, and James R. Dedrick, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Thomas Varlan, judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, sentenced Selective Structures to pay an $80,000 criminal fine and $179,174.18 in penalties and damages to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). The company also was placed on probation for 37 months to allow it time to pay the fines, penalties and damages. Selective Structures was required to hire an outside consultant to conduct quarterly environmental compliance audits while it is on probation and report the results of the audits to the Department of Justice.

Selective Structures operates a facility in Athens where it builds support structures for roadside signs and billboards. During the course of its manufacturing process, hazardous waste was generated in the form of spent solvents mixed with other paint waste. The company used a Xylene-based solvent, which is a listed hazardous waste, and is highly ignitable. Exposure to Xylene can cause skin irritation, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Selective Structures was required to use a licensed waste management company to transport the spent Xylene solvent to a licensed facility for disposal. However, Selective Structures accumulated and stored the spent Xylene solvent on its property, rather than having it handled at an approved hazardous waste disposal facility.

When the company had accumulated more than sixty 55-gallon drums of the spent solvent onsite, employees mixed it with pitchforks into a large pile of sawdust. DEC conducted an inspection, discovered the illegal activities and required that the hazardous waste be disposed of properly. Special agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division executed a federal search warrant at the facility in April 2008 and obtained samples which confirmed that hazardous wastes were being illegally stored on site.

"Hazardous wastes must be stored and managed properly to ensure community, worker and environmental safety," said Maureen O’Mara, special agent-in-charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Atlanta. "Individuals who refuse to ‘play by the rules’ put the public and the environment at risk, and they will be prosecuted."