LENEXA, KANSAS (May 27, 2020) — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a settlement with BNSF Railway Company to resolve alleged violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at a facility owned by the company in Sioux City, Iowa. In the settlement, BNSF agreed to clean up an estimated 2 million pounds of broken cathode ray tube glass, a hazardous waste, placed and stored there by a previous occupant.
The Sioux City facility was acquired by BNSF in 2014. In 2017, EPA conducted an inspection of the site and determined that the accumulated, broken CRT glass at the site contained lead concentrations that exceeded federal limits. BNSF has submitted to EPA a work plan to remove, manage and dispose of the CRT glass, in accordance with federal law. Through a Consent Agreement and Final Order filed by EPA on May 21, the Agency approved the work plan. BNSF will have about four months to complete the cleanup.
“We are encouraged by BNSF’s willingness to properly dispose of the hazardous waste stored on its property,” said David Cozad, director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “Reducing exposure to lead and educating the public about the dangers of lead are top priorities for the Agency and the federal government.”
Cathode-ray tubes, or CRT, are the glass video-displays found in televisions and computer monitors. Mismanaged CRT glass is hazardous because it contains significant amounts of lead. Exposure to lead can be toxic to humans, particularly children, and may lead to cognitive impairment and organ damage. Under RCRA, owners of facilities that process or store hazardous waste must obtain a permit issued by EPA or an authorized state.
The Sioux City facility is one of six sites in Iowa and Nebraska where an estimated 16.9 million pounds of CRT glass were placed and stored by an individual named Aaron Rochester and his company, Recycletronics. Neither Rochester nor Recycletronics ever obtained a hazardous-waste permit to store the CRT glass at the sites, which led to a criminal indictment for Rochester. He currently awaits trial and maintains he is financially unable to pay for the removal of the CRT glass.
Addressing lead contamination and educating the public on the hazards of lead exposure are primary goals of EPA. In 2018, the federal government and EPA implemented a “Lead Action Plan” that was part of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children.