Oregon Export Co. Pays $17,000 for Illegally Exporting Hazardous Waste to Hong Kong

Jones International Groups Inc., has agreed to pay $17,000 for failing to comply with requirements related to the export of universal waste (spent lead-acid batteries) to Hong Kong through the Port of Portland, according to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

On September 7, 2009, Jones International Groups, located in Hillsboro, Ore., arranged for the export of approximately 129 spent lead acid batteries destined for Hong Kong. These batteries had been incorrectly identified in shipping paperwork as “mixed metal scrap” and the shipment did not identify the materials as either a hazardous waste or a “universal waste,” a waste designation provided for under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The shipment was returned to the United States upon discovery of the true contents of the containers by Hong Kong officials.

“Companies that collect discarded universal waste must be held accountable to manage these wastes in compliance with our laws which ensure that they will be properly handled, and not sent abroad to countries that have not agreed to receive waste from the U.S.” said Edward Kowalski, EPA’s director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle.

EPA determined that the company violated several federal hazardous waste management requirements designed to ensure the proper management and transport of universal wastes. Importantly, the company failed to provide EPA with prior notice of its intent to export the waste to Hong Kong and, consequently, bypassed the process required for Hong Kong to consent to receive universal waste from the U.S. before it can leave the country.

Export of wastes containing lead to other countries without proper controls in place can expose others to harmful effects. Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child's development and behavior. Exposure to lead may cause problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

Lead-acid batteries are secondary, wet cell batteries, meaning they can be recharged for many uses and they contain liquid. They are the most widely used rechargeable battery in the world. Spent lead-acid batteries are either recycled or disposed.