DES MOINES | Charges that a former Sioux City business illegally stockpiled electronics have been referred to the Iowa attorney general’s office, giving the state broader authority to investigate the business and its owner, a former Sioux City councilman.
The state’s Environmental Protection Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to refer to the attorney general’s office the case involving Recycletronics --- Disabled Vets at Work as well as owner Aaron Rochester.
Rochester has illegally stockpiled lead-containing glass cathode ray tubes commonly found in televisions and computer monitors and other electronic waste at his facility at 1220 Steuben St. and illegally stored or disposed of the materials at five other locations, according to DNR documents. The state agency claims Rochester also has failed to repay more than $75,000 owed on a loan granted through a state program in 2011 to buy equipment for the business.
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The commission, which operates under the state Department of Natural Resources, recommended referring the case to the attorney general’s office, which will have broader authority to investigate Rochester’s finances and potentially reach a settlement that would carry the same weight as a court order.
The attorney general’s office also has legal authority to seek higher penalties against violators than does the DNR, whose fines are capped by law at $10,000.
“It’s sort of (Rochester’s) last opportunity to do the right thing and work with the state,” Dave Scott, an attorney representing the department, told the commission at Tuesday’s hearing. “If it’s not deferred, the DNR would issue an administrative order, and if he didn’t comply we’d be back here in a year.”
The DNR in March notified Rochester that it would not renew Recycletronics' cathode ray tube recycling permit because of repeated non-compliance with state and federal regulations and that he must close the facility and no longer accept waste.
Rochester also is being investigated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Rochester appeared at the hearing and asked the case remain with the department to give him more time to clean up the multiple sites still stocked with millions of pounds of electronics. Rochester said he has been making progress at some of the sites.
“This company is closed and we are cleaning up the sites,” Rochester said. “What I’m asking for is to buy us a little more time to continue to work ... and to come back in a year and show what we’ve done.”
Scott said nearly 17 million pounds of electronics remain on the various sites.
Rochester said he continues to pay workers to clean the sites, but that his funds are limited since the business has gone under.
Scott said the attorney general’s office has the authority to investigate Rochester’s finances to determine the veracity of that statement. Scott said Rochester still owes roughly $75,000 on the loan, on which he has not made a payment since August of 2015.