CLEARFIELD — A warehouse sits unusable, packed with 3.5 million pounds of hazardous waste — debris from the era of glass TVs and computer monitors and a crashed recycling market.
Building owner Andy Renfro is stuck with the mess, after his recycling company tenant went bust and its CEO this week got sentenced to federal prison for violating environmental law.
In October 2013, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality cited Stone Castle Recycling and its owner and CEO, Anthony Stoddard, with illegally storing and dumping hazardous waste at the site.
The following year, Renfro won an eviction case against Stoddard and a judgment of $121,000 for back rent plus damages, according to 2nd District Court records.
“Ever since then we’ve been doing whatever we can to clean up and get rid of all the CRT (cathode-ray tube) glass,” Renfro said Wednesday. “But there’s 3.5 million pounds of it in a 40,000-square-foot building. It’s a massive undertaking.”
In Salt Lake City U.S. District Court on Monday, Judge Ted Stewart sentenced Stoddard, 50, of Cedar City, to a year in federal prison and three years of probation on his guilty plea to a charge of knowingly storing hazardous waste without a permit.
HIGH LEAD CONTAMINATION
The recycler accepted outmoded electronics to scrap and sell as raw materials. Utah DEQ said Stone Castle separated and crushed the leaded-glass vacuum tubes inside the televisions and monitors and sent some of the glass for recycling into new CRTs.
But as plasma and LCD high-definition televisions became popular, the market for leaded glass evaporated, a DEQ report on the case said.
“The downturn in the leaded-glass market left Stone Castle with large quantities of glass, which it stored on the ground in open, corrugated-cardboard containers,” the report said. “Intact CRT televisions also began to pile up at the recycler’s facilities.”
Stone Castle had locations in Clearfield, Cedar City and Parowan. Regulators increased scrutiny after fires at the Parowan and Clearfield sites in 2014.
Stone Castle and Stoddard abandoned the three sites and a federal grand jury indicted Stoddard in 2017.
The Clearfield warehouse is building D-3 in Freeport West, 1650 S. 300 West.
U.S. prosecutors said in court documents that the company promoted itself to businesses, nonprofits and consumers as an environmentally-friendly option for disposing of their old electronics.
But Stoddard never sought a permit from the state to store that waste, which is classified as hazardous.
FALSIFIED SHIPPING MANIFESTS
A Stone Castle employee, Jamen Wood, pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly omitting hazardous waste information on a shipping manifest. In November 2018, he was sentenced to four years of probation.
Prosecutors said Wood listed as non-hazardous the shipment of 304,000 pounds of crushed glass, four dump-truck loads, to the Grassy Mountain landfill in Tooele County during 2013.
Officials tested the contents of the final truckload and found the crushed glass was highly contaminated by lead and should have been shipped to a non-hazardous waste site.
For the Clearfield cleanup, “We tried working with the owner, but it just never happened,” Allan Moore, the state’s solid waste program manager, said of his agency’s dealings with Stoddard.
“Once it went to criminal investigation, nothing has happened at the site since then,” Moore said.
“The priority is the stuff outside, and some of that has been taken care of,” Moore said.
There’s no immediate danger from the materials inside the warehouse, but when the time comes, it will have to be disposed of properly, he said.
Some monitors and televisions at another nearby site were recently cleaned up after the ATK aerospace company agreed to foot the bill, Moore said.
“Apparently Stone Castle had taken in some of their computers, so they decided to do the good citizen thing,” he said.
CONTAMINANTS TAINT SOIL
Overflow from the warehouse was stored on the ground outside and at a lot nearby, state and federal officials said.
“Cardboard boxes of CRT glass stored outside were spilling onto the ground,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a sentencing document filed Jan. 22.
Soil samples taken by the Environmental Protection Agency showed lead levels around the boxes of 100 times more than other samples taken nearby.
“This large quantity of CRT glass was not accumulated or disposed of for a nefarious purpose such as midnight dumping of hazardous waste to avoid the costs of proper disposal,” the prosecution document said. “Instead, Mr. Stoddard made some very poor business decisions and knowingly failed to follow clear regulations for his operation, which resulted in the storage of so much hazardous waste inside his facility that he could not handle it.”
Prison time also is warranted, prosecutors said, for the hardship inflicted upon Renfro. As well, they said, it “will also deter those business owners and managers engaged in handling hazardous materials from ignoring the governing regulations concerning those materials.”
Efforts to contact Stoddard’s federal public defender, Wendy Lewis, were not immediately successful.
In a 2013 report, Utah DEQ said inspectors found significant levels of lead and barium hazardous waste contamination at the site and lesser concentrations of cadmium, selenium, arsenic, chromium, mercury and silver.
State inspectors at that time noted the site had no emergency contingency plan and recommended the company implement one. There also was no evidence that Stone Castle personnel had been trained in the various aspects of properly handling, recycling and disposing of hazardous materials.
LOW HOPE FOR RESTITUTION
Prosecutors recommended Stoddard be ordered to pay Renfro $227,000 in restitution, an estimated cost of the cleanup.
“I doubt we’ll be getting paid much,” Renfro said. “And as of right now, our insurance denied the claim so we are stuck with the bill.”
He said some organizations have asked if he would donate the building and they would handle the cleanup.
“But we would be losing all our equity in the property,” Renfro said.
Stewart ordered Stoddard to report to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on March 1 to begin serving his sentence.
State court records show Stoddard pleaded guilty in 2018 in Iron County to a charge of theft and two counts of improper vehicle title registration after several old vehicles were reported stolen.
Prosecutors said Stoddard towed away a vehicle and sold it to a scrap recycler.
You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.