The Basel Action Network (BAN), Seattle, reports that Stone Castle Recycling, previously one of Utah's largest recyclers of electronic scrap, has abandoned its three facilities in the state. The company has ceased all operations and has left behind several warehouses and yards filled with an estimated 7,600 tons of toxic electronic scrap and charred residues, the organization says.
BAN says that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives in Denver report that the owner and CEO of Stone Castle, Anthony (Tony) Stoddard, has simply disappeared and is now being pursued by law enforcement authorities.
The abandonment follows three recent fires at the three Stone Castle sites in Clearfield (near Salt Lake City), Parowan and Cedar City, Utah, BAN says, and a subsequent investigation and report by the organization released in March of this year. The BAN report was followed by intensified enforcement actions from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. EPA seeking to ensure that the company cleaned up its collected material.
On March 2, 2014, the most dramatic fire occurred in the central Utah town of Parowan where Stone Castle was storing electronic and other waste in an open field, BAN says. The fire is believed to have released toxic heavy metals, dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which remain in the ash at the site. The site has yet to be cleaned up, and the EPA says it likely will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish, BAN reports.
"They left a toxic mess," says Jim Puckett, executive director of BAN, of the Parowan site. "And much of it remains a risk to nearby residents and to the groundwater. It all needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible."
The Parowan site contained discards from Deseret Industries, a retail thrift store chain owned and operated by the Church of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), BAN reports. Under U.S. law, the former holders and generators of waste also bear responsibility for toxic waste dumpsites and may be forced to bear the cost of cleanup.
The Parowan site is not the only dump that Stoddard and Stone Castle left behind. At least two large warehouses (one burned) and outdoor storage sites (one also burned) are full of hundreds of Gaylord boxes, sometimes stacked four high, full of TVs and monitors and their glass. BAN says it has estimated the Stone Castle total abandonment at more than 7,600 tons of e-scrap.
When BAN investigators visited Stone Castle's facility in Clearfield in March, the organization says it discovered a previously unrecorded outdoor yard full of televisions and computer monitors a few blocks from the facility. BAN says it warned state and federal officials that the site could easily catch fire because projection lenses were present. The Clearfield outdoor site caught fire Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014.
"With Stone Castle and many others around the country stockpiling TVs, computer monitors and glass, anybody could see this coming," Puckett says.
BAN says it is calling on the EPA and state agencies to more effectively monitor and enforce the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's rules about e-scrap management, including rules against operators speculatively accumulating wastes.