Michigan Company, Owner Sentenced To Prison For Illegally Storing Hazardous Waste

Electro-Plating Services Inc was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution.

WWJ News
November 06, 2019 - 9:20 pm

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(WWJ) -- The owner of a local chemical company has been sentenced to a year in prison for illegally storing hazardous waste at his business in Madison Heights.

The U.S. Department of Justice says Electro-Plating Services and its owner, Gary Sayers, were sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution totaling nearly $1.5 million to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sayers was also sentenced to a year in prison and three years of supervised release.

Sayers and the company pleaded guilty back in February to a federal hazardous waste storage felony. Officials say Sayers stored various chemicals used for the plating process -- including cyanide, chromium, chloride and other acids and bases -- in numerous drums and other containers. The DOJ says a pit was dug in the lower level of the EPS building, on 10 Mile Road in Madison Heights, to store the waste.

After the chemicals no longer served their intended purpose, they became hazardous wastes, which required handling in compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which officials say Sayers and EPS did not follow.

The DOJ says for years, Sayers stonewalled state efforts to get him to legally deal the hazardous wastes. Ultimately, the EPA’s Superfund program spent $1,449,963.94 to clean up and dispose of the hazardous wastes, which EPS and Sayers have been ordered to pay in restitution.

"This case shows that anyone who chooses to do business with dangerous materials must obey federal laws that protect our fellow Americans and the environment. These defendants’ knowing, illegal storage of waste cyanide, highly corrosive wastes, toxic chromium waste, and reactive wastes posed a significant danger and threat to nearby communities and the environment," said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, according to a press release.

"They disregarded the law and numerous warnings and requests by state authorities to comply with their legal obligations. The Department of Justice will act to protect public health and safety."

According to court records, Sayers -- who owned and was the President of EPS -- knew that such storage was illegal and had managed the company’s former Detroit facility, where he kept hazardous wastes illegally, according to the DOJ.

Starting in 1996, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly sent Sayers warnings about his illegal handling of hazardous waste. In 2005, he was charged with and pleaded guilty to illegally transporting hazardous wastes in state court. Officials say in the ensuing years, the MDEQ attempted to get Sayers and EPS to properly manage the amounts of hazardous wastes piling up at the Madison Heights location. The MDEQ issued numerous letters of warning and violation notices to the company regarding its hazardous wastes.

In 2016, the MDEQ identified over 5,000 containers of liquid and solid wastes at the Madison Heights location. Later that year, the city of Madison Heights revoked the company’s occupancy permit and in January 2017, the EPA initiated a Superfund removal action, after determining that nature and threats posed by the stored hazardous waste required a time-critical response. The cleanup was completed in January 2018.