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US: HazChem Criminal Who Sent Waste to Rotterdam Fined $2 Million

Environmental News Service
February 17th, 2006

Joel Udell and two affiliated businesses, Pyramid Chemical Sales Co. and Nittany Warehouse LP, were sentenced on Tuesday to pay more than $2 million in restitution and fines for mishandling hazardous wastes in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In addition, U.S. District Court Judge Bruce W. Kauffman sentenced Udell, who now resides in Boca Raton, Florida, to six months in home confinement in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania under electronic monitoring and 500 hours of community service in Pottstown.

The sentence was lighter than the maximum that the judge could have imposed. Udell faced a maximum sentence of 48 years imprisonment, a fine of $3.75 million, 27 years supervised release, and a special assessment of $1,500. The businesses each faced a maximum fine of $7.5 million, five years probation and $6,000 special assessment.

Udell and his companies had pleaded guilty to storing hazardous waste without a permit at the former Nittany Warehouse in Pottstown, from May 1998 to early 2001, exporting hazardous waste outside the United States without consent of the receiving country on various dates in 2000, and transporting hazardous waste without manifests and to unpermitted facilities in 2000.

The charges grew out of the defendants' operation of a surplus chemical brokerage business in Ambler and Pottstown. Beginning in May 1998, Pottstown authorities attempted to get Udell to repair the Nittany Warehouse on High Street in Pottstown and to improve storage of thousands of containers of chemicals, including flammable, corrosive and toxic material stored in deteriorated or broken containers and bags.

Pottstown sued Udell and Nittany Warehouse in state court in 1999, obtained a state court order in April, 2000. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forced the defendants to perform a Superfund cleanup from July 2000 to early 2001.

During that period, the defendants shipped 29 forty foot containers of aging chemicals to Rotterdam. The containers stayed at the port for three years when Dutch authorities refused to permit them to be reshipped because of their poor condition, and the defendants refused to have them repackaged and returned to the United States.

The restitution imposed as part of the sentences covers the port operator's costs for storing the chemicals for three years, the Dutch government's costs in incinerating almost 300 tons of chemicals at the end of 2003, and EPA's costs in overseeing the warehouse cleanup in Pottstown.

“These defendants knowingly mishandled hazardous waste both in Pennsylvania and abroad,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The message is clear: we will pursue criminals demonstrating such willful disregard for the public’s safety and the environment - even when it crosses jurisdictional lines - and we will continue the collaborative efforts with international authorities to prosecute these crimes.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center in Denver, the Netherlands Ministry of the Environment, the Borough of Pottstown, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.



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