A Belleville man was sentenced this week in federal court to probation and fined in connection with the illegal storage of hazardous waste in Millstadt.
Lawrence D. Rutledge, 57, of Belleville, received five years of probation and was ordered to pay $335,934 in restitution to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for clean-up expenses associated with the abandonment of chemicals at a former business at 109 S. Kossuth Street in Millstadt.
Rutledge pleaded guilty to the federal charge in July.
In 1997, Rutledge started a business called Advanced Asymmetrics to synthesize specialty chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. The business was located in close proximity to a residential area and a senior living home. Over time, Rutledge accumulated numerous containers of chemicals and chemical waste at the Millstadt facility. Sometime around 2011, Rutledge stopped paying county property taxes on the Millstadt facility and over the next few years, electrical and water service were shut off.
In August 2015, employees of the Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA entered the facility and discovered hundreds of containers with labels indicating the presence of acids, caustics and other chemicals, as well as hazardous waste. Some of the metal containers had rusted and crystallization had started to occur on metal surfaces. Some had even fallen over and broken open. Sodium cyanide, which is extremely toxic, was stored within one inch of a container containing acid, presenting the potential formation of cyanide gas.
Investigators also discovered a container labelled as a shock-sensitive picric acid, which is highly explosive.
“The defendant’s abandonment of hazardous chemicals created a highly dangerous situation,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Martinez of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Illinois. “Companies should take notice that EPA and our law enforcement partners will enforce our hazardous waste laws that protect our communities and the environment.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Coonan and U.S. EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel David P. Mucha prosecuted the case.