Eastern North Carolina man pleads guilty to unlawful storage of hazardous waste

Published 7:49 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

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A Greenville man pleaded guilty November 17, 2021 to knowing storage of hazardous waste without a permit, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 6928(d)(2)(A), according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of North Carolina.

According to the criminal information and information provided in open court November 18, Lee Vann Crawford, 51, of Greenville, owned and operated Eastern Electronics Recycling, USA in eastern North Carolina. Eastern Electronics was a company that purported to be engaged in the responsible collection and disposal of e-waste, such as televisions, computer monitors and other electronic equipment.

Old televisions and computer monitors contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs) which, when improperly maintained and stored, can release toxic levels of lead, according to the release. Waste containing lead content of five milligrams per liter is considered hazardous waste.

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“As early as 2012, Crawford began collecting and storing large volumes of e-waste, including large amounts of CRTs, at 800 W. Green Street in Robersonville, NC, within Martin County, Much of the waste at this location had been scrapped or otherwise broken down into smaller parts. CRTs had also been shattered, releasing lead,” stated the release. “Crawford did not obtain or maintain a permit from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or from the State of North Carolina, to store the CRTs at this location. Crawford also did not recycle or otherwise properly dispose of the CRTs.”

In June 2019, the EPA executed a search warrant at Crawford’s storage location found a large quantity of shattered CRTs. Samples of waste were extracted from various locations on the property, yielding findings of hazardous amounts of lead – 102 to 188 milligrams per liter, according to the release.

The maximum punishment for knowing storage of hazardous waste without a permit is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 per day of the violation. The sentencing for Crawford is scheduled to occur in February 2022.

G. Norman Acker III, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement. The investigation was conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represents the United States.