Lawrence D. Rutledge, 57, of Belleville, Illinois, has been sentenced to five years of federal probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $335,934.87 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) for clean-up expenses associated with his illegal storage of hazardous waste in St. Clair County, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Steven D. Weinhoeft, announced today.
Rutledge pleaded guilty to the charge in July.
In 1997, Rutledge started a business called Advanced Asymmetrics, Inc., to synthesize specialty chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. The business was located inside a commercial building at 109 South Kossuth Street in Millstadt, Illinois, in close proximity to a residential area and a senior living home. Over time, Rutledge accumulated numerous containers of chemicals and chemical waste at the Millstadt facility. Sometime around 2011, Rutledge stopped paying the county property taxes on the Millstadt facility, and over the next few years, the electrical service and the water service (both water supply and sewer) to the facility were shut off.
In August 2015, employees of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (“Illinois EPA”) and the U.S. EPA entered the facility and discovered hundreds of containers with labels indicating the presence of acids, caustics, and other chemicals, as well as hazardous waste. Some of the metal containers had rusted, and crystallization had started to occur on metal surfaces. Some had even fallen over and broken open. Sodium cyanide, which is extremely toxic, was stored within one inch of a container containing acid, presenting the potential formation of cyanide gas. Investigators also discovered a container labelled as a shock-sensitive picric acid, which is highly explosive.So it's pretty clear that Advanced Asymmetrics did not do well. It's my understanding and broad experience that it takes a lot to get criminally prosecuted by USEPA, so I imagine this is an egregious case. So here's my question for discussion: when companies go bust like this, what happens with the chemicals? Clearly, the organization is financially responsible, but what happens when the company doesn't have any cash? Who pays for Veolia to show up?