NEW BERN, N.C. – A Greenville man pleaded guilty yesterday to Knowing Storage of Hazardous Waste Without a Permit, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 6928(d)(2)(A).
According to the Criminal Information, and information provided in open court today, 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. Waste containing lead content of five milligrams per liter is considered “hazardous waste.”
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. 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 of 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.
The maximum punishment for Knowing Storage of Hazardous Waste Without a Permit is up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 per day of the violation. The sentencing for the Crawford is scheduled to occur in February of 2022.
“The illegal storage and disposal of Cathode Ray Tube waste (CRT) containing hazardous amounts of Lead contamination needlessly put the lives of the resident of Martin County, NC, and general public at an increased risk to Lead exposure,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Carfagno of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Atlanta, GA. “Today’s plea agreement related to that illegal activity demonstrates that anyone who intentionally violates the law and puts the public at risk will be held responsible for their actions.”
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 Criminal Investigative Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represents the United States.
Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:20-CR-245-1D(2).