Iowa to Illinois – hazardous
waste is crossing the border
“We can’t compete with the illegals,”
Vladimir Bydzovsky of JR’s Appliance Demanufacturing said.
Ron Myrick of Midwest Recycling said, “Scrappers
have been grabbing the stuff and running across the river.”
The problem is white goods crossing the border
from Iowa to Illinois. “They’re not that strict,”
Mike Weikert of Weikert Iron and Metal said of Iowa’s regulations,
“it’s just that Illinois is wide open.”
In Iowa, white goods must be “demanufactured”
by companies with state appliance demanufacture permits. These companies,
called ADPs, are supposed to remove and dispose of the hazardous
material before the metal is recycled.
Myrick said, “It kind of kills us”
that Illinois scrap yards are paying for Iowa appliances. “I’ve
lost good accounts because I have to charge.”
On the Illinois side of the border, “You
don’t need any type of permit for recycling,” James
Jones, an inspector in Illinois for the Bureau of Land said. “Scrap
yards have to have someone qualified to remove the white good components.”
Jones inspected two Illinois scrap yards after
the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) filed a complaint
with the Illinois EPA about those yards.
In correspondence regarding that complaint, Kurt
Levetzow at the Iowa DNR wrote, “A lot of the permitted folks
are telling me that there are tons of “alley runners”
picking up appliances and hauling them into Illinois where the salvage
yards are paying for the appliances. The numbers don’t work
out if this is the case. They absolutely can’t be demanufacturing
them, paying to dispose of the waste (mercury, PCB’s and Freon),
because the money they get for salvaging doesn’t offset the
cost of the haz waste disposal.”
Jones said, “I had them run me through their
procedures the way they said they run their operation.” He
said that both management and personnel “on the ground”
had the same information about their procedures for inspecting incoming
appliances. “We’ve got our requirements and all the
folks have to do is follow the requirements.”
Levetzow had different information from ADPs in his area. He said,
“A couple of facilities in Illinois are known to pay for refrigerators
and tell the haulers, ‘don’t worry about the Freon,
we don’t pull it out.’”
“It’s the same river, the same air,”
Myrick said, a concern that was echoed by other Iowa scrap dealers.
Several mentioned the hazards of sodium chromate,
a chemical in ammonia box cooling systems. “One out of every
50 appliances might have sodium chromate,” Levetzow said.
Bydzovsky isn’t only blaming Illinois –
he has issues with the Iowa DNR, the EPA and fellow Iowa scrap dealers.
“I’ve been fighting these people for 10 years,”
he said. “Ten years ago, nobody was doing recycling.”
Levetzow confirmed Bydzovsky’s involvement.
He said that when the permitting process began in 2002. “JR’s
invited the department in for training.”
But Bydzovsky has gone beyond training. He has
spoken to legislators and reported fellow ADPs to the EPA. He has
compiled a mountain of paperwork, including copies of annual reports
from other ADPs.
Levetzow said that he’s seen the reports,
and that while he couldn’t speak to the situation in other
areas, there was one ADP in his district that reported no hazardous
waste. At an on-site inspection, the ADP produced receipts for the
hazardous waste shipments. Levetzow said, “He said, ‘I
guess I didn’t do it right.’ Everybody screws up once
in a while.”
Weikert said, “The DNR checks us –
we’re paying to get rid of all that stuff …we have to
send them our records once a year…” But even though
they check, “I don’t think they’re tough enough
on coming down and checking…but the budget only goes so far.”
Levetzow said that with recent budget cuts, his
yearly inspections of ADPs have been cut to once every three years.
Another issue Bydzovsky brought up were appliances
coming back into Iowa in the form of baled or shredded scrap that
is getting processed further in Iowa.
Levetzow said that the scrap processors and foundries
in Iowa “are not supposed to accept appliances, baled or unbaled,
unless they come from an Iowa permitted demanufacturer. The problem
is how to catch this.”
One Iowa scrap dealer admitted that while he would
prefer to be one hundred percent compliant, “sometimes you’ve
got to do what you’ve got to do to stay in business.”
Myrick said that one of the problems is that the
stores that sell appliances will take back the used ones, charge
the customers a fee for recycling, and then simply leave the appliances
in back of the store where they are “stolen”.
Bydzovsky said, “Go to any border town 10-20
miles inside Iowa, and they are picking up at the stores because
the illegals can pick it up for free. Retail stores charge consumers
to recycle appliances, these illegals collect them and go to Illinois
and they’re just shredding them all.”
Dave Walter from the Illinois EPA said that scrap
dealers in Illinois would be liable if they were to accept appliances
with hazardous material. “The onus is on the scrap dealer
to get those items out of there.” As far as Iowa’s complaints,
he said, “The answer is that it’s impossible for us
to be there 24 hours a day.” The inspectors can only rely
on what they see at the time they visit.
Levetzow doesn’t deny that problems exist
in Iowa. He said, “The problem with Iowa is that it’s
so wooded and hilly,” making it easy for illegal scrap operations
to hide from authorities. The other issue is the way the laws are
written. “It seems simple,” he said, “but it doesn’t
regulate hauling appliances some place. You can’t cause a
release into the environment, but it does not talk about keeping
them in the state.” He thinks Iowa should regulate appliance
hauling the way it regulates tire hauling.
With fingers pointing in so many directions, a
few anonymous calls to Illinois and Iowa scrap yards seemed appropriate.
The same scenario was described in each call: an apartment tear-down
yielded a trailer load of various appliances. Who would take them?
One Illinois yard said they would take everything,
but wouldn’t pay. Another offered to pay, with some restrictions.
Later, when I called and said that I was a reporter, a manager at
one of those yards said, “We shy away from appliances because
of the Freon…we don’t get into appliances.”
In contrast, none of the Iowa yards admitted to
taking white goods, and when asked what to do with them, they gave
references to nearby ADPs.
When Jones was told of the calls, he said that
if it was a real load of appliances, “when you show up, it
may be a different thing – they may have a procedure.”
Jones said that Illinois companies should have
written handling procedures for white goods. “You have to
believe that they don’t handle them…until you prove
that they are accepting white goods with white good components.”
Dave Keeling at the Steel Recycling Institute
talked confidentially with several scrap dealers and passed on the
information. “What they tell me is that there is a little
more enforcement in Iowa than Illinois…and also the state
is a little more aggressive in Iowa. In Illinois, as long as somebody
documents that the cfcs have been removed properly and they have
that on file, they go ahead and shred them up. For some reason the
folks are able to pay for the material at a little higher price
in Illinois.” He also noted that the Illinois yards seem to
be passing the tests required on shredder fluff and added that the
majority of appliances do not have mercury switches or capacitors.
JR’s will be closing its Iowa facility and
Bydzovsky is out of a job. “I refuse to pollute – I
don’t want to be that way, and that’s why we’re
closing. It’s either beat ‘em or join ‘em,”
he said. “You killed the watchdog.”
“The problem will continue until Illinois
steps up,” Myrick said.
But that’s not all. “West and south
of the state are having the same problem,” Levetzow said.
And likely, so are other states where laws are
different across borders.