A Pennsylvania plastics recycling company faces criminal charges and fines for allegedly dumping chemicals and cleaning products into storm drains and operating without proper environmental permits.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro May 19 announced a criminal complaint against Plastic World Recycling Inc., in Palmerton, alleging that witnesses, including local government officials, saw company staff dumping the contents of up to 300 plastic industrial drums into local sewers.
A statement from Shapiro's office said the company is being charged in the Carbon County court system with criminal codes for disturbance of waterways and watersheds, pollution of waters, industrial waste discharge and related charges.
The complaint said violating the state's Clean Stream Law is a third-degree felony with fines of $5,000-$50,000 per offense and up to seven years in jail. Prosecutors are charging eight separate counts.
"We charged Plastic World Recycling for dumping an outrageous amount of cleaning agents into a Carbon County creek that people rely on for trout fishing," Shapiro said.
Company officials did not respond to a request for comment and court records do not identify an attorney for the firm.
In the charging documents, prosecutors allege that on May 28, 2018, a neighboring business owner saw employees of the company emptying contents of the 55-gallon industrial drums into the storm drains and then cutting up the plastic containers.
That person called local government officials, and both the local town manager and mayor then visited the property within a few hours and allegedly saw employees dumping the drum contents, described as bluish-white frothy liquid, and seeing it go into a nearby creek and the nearby Lehigh River.
Prosecutors said that Mayor William Ravert told PWR employees to stop dumping because it was going into the creek, but they allegedly told him "we're only doing what we're told to do."
Employees working that day provided written statements to investigators that PWR President Sayed Hamed Ziabari told them to dump the contents of the barrels into the sewer drain, Shapiro's office said.
Prosecutors said the company appeared to be buying used drums that had contained cleaning chemicals from a local floor refinishing company.
The complaint said that in a follow-up inspection in May, state environmental regulators took pictures of more industrial drums that "appeared to have been emptied on to the ground and into a storm drain" that discharges into the Lehigh River.
State Department of Environmental Protection inspectors also observed plastic pellets from the recycling facility near the storm drain and in the nearby creek, and a former truck driver for the company told investigators that he observed employees dumping resin pellets into nearby waterways, the complaint said.