It was a disaster waiting to happen – a regulatory nightmare and a hazardous scene even on good days.
A look at Intercontinental Export Import’s environmental record speaks volumes about the “recycling” business and its operations at the old Ames shovel plant in Parkersburg. Records from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reveal that regulators were aware of sloppy practices that endangered the river, the workers, and had potential for great harm to human health. Years of violations had been recorded yet the enterprise owned by Dr. Saurabh Naik of Clarksville, Maryland continued to operate. Naik owns and operates several similar recycling warehouses where he purchases and stores plastics and other manufacturing products.
RCNN sources indicate that the contents were obtained from several area plants – with the largest volume of materials originating at DuPont Washington Works (aka Chemours).
A WVDEP consent order describes the warehouse contents as follows:
Additionally, it is noted in the 2015 filing that an underground storage tank closed by Ames True Temper still showed evidence of trichloroethylene, lead, ethylbenzene, toluene (in the soil and groundwater.)
A WVDEP inspection of the facility in May 2011 revealed several blatant violations:
• Discharge monitoring reports had not been submitted since 2009.
• Good housekeeping was not being maintained and stored substances had potential to come into contact with storm water.
• Facility failed to record and report flow for each outlet. Failed to install a flow measurement device. Failed to install outlet markers at both outlets.
• From July 2009 to May 2011, failed to collect any required samples.
• Failed to develop and maintain a groundwater protection plan.
• A storm water protection plan had not been implemented.
• The facility was found to be lacking a plan for compliance with effluent phthalate esters and vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene. From 2009 to 2015 the facility was found to be exceeding the permitted limit of vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene discharged in amounts from 34 percent to 114 percent.
• An unpermitted outlet was discovered.
In June 2011, IEI was ordered to complete a permit for storm water associated with industrial activities and failed to comply.
In August 2012, an inspection resulted in a repeat of all the violations from the May 2011 inspection and also:
• Maintenance was needed on drop-inlets and the sedimentation tank.
• Plastic pellets were observed at Outfall 001.
The facility continued to operate out of compliance. The record shows that WVDEP levied fines against the company but the noncompliance continued.
In 2015, WVDEP ordered IEI to immediately take all measures to come into compliance with the terms of its permit and pertinent laws. At that time, IEI had racked up more than $80,000 in penalties for noncompliance. In a press conference today, officials indicated that the relevant portion of the facility – the part known as Plant 2 – continued to operate out of compliance until it was destroyed by fire.
Perhaps WVDEP photo #17 is the most haunting. The caption reads: “Dumpsters for fire cleanup.”