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Release Date: 05/02/1996
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BOSTON - Federal, state, and provincial law enforcement officials in the United States and Canada joined forces to conduct a 24-hour environmental compliance sweep at all the commercial entry border points across New York and New England beginning on Wednesday, May 1, and finishing at 11:00 a.m. today. The sweep, dubbed "Operation Greenline," was designed to trap and prevent the illegal shipments of toxic substances crossing international boundaries, a problem believed to be escalating over he past four or five years.

Officials pulled over an estimated 250 trucks crossing the border. Four trucks carrying chemical substances failed to have the required certification for carrying these chemicals and will be investigated further. State and federal transportation officials reported safety violations resulting in the detention of at least five trucks. Numerous vehicles carrying pesticides entered Canada from the U.S. and were detained by Canadian border officials for suspected pesticide import violations. In addition, law enforcement officials on both sides of the border are sharing intelligence gathered during the operation which may result in further enforcement action. Aerial surveillance was conducted to determine if trucks were hiding out at rest stops or pullovers approaching the border checks but no suspicious activity was noted.

"Pollution respects no boundaries and today's action is a tangible example of how two nations can work cooperatively and strategically to detect and prosecute environmental violators who try to use international borders to escape regulation," said John DeVillars, administrator for EPA's New England office.

The environmental sweep covered a 1,300 mile stretch along the border and was conducted at all six commercial ports in New York, three in Vermont, one in New Hampshire, and three in Maine. The U.S. Customs Service, working with specialists from EPA and the states, performed multi-media inspections on trucks and other vehicles carrying hazardous wastes, PCBs, petroleum products, pesticides, pressurized gases, and other chemicals. Vehicles carrying pressurized gases were scrutinized, and where appropriate, sampled, to identify or confirm the presence of CFCs.

State police units checked roads and rest stops approaching the border to see if any vehicles stopped at these locations were trying to wait out the inspections at the checkpoints. Canadian and provincial authorities performed identical checks simultaneously on their side of the border.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the transboundary shipment of illegal chemical and chemical wastes out of the U.S. to Canada, and the reverse, is on the rise. Over the last several years, there has been an increase in the number of "sham" hazardous waste recyclers who have been trucking back and forth across international borders solely to mislabel their loads. These so-called "U-Turn" wastes leave one country as waste, and then re-enter the country with falsified documents of reporting contents as a recycled product. In fact, the original wastes trucked were never recycled.

Participating in this operation were provincial, federal, and state environmental investigators, customs agents from the U.S. and Canada, and technical enforcement personnel from both sides of the border. Government agencies involved in this sweep included: the EPA, Environment Canada, U.S. Customs Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, New Brunswick Department of the Environment and Quebec Ministry of Environment Police, Transport Canada, Agriculture Canada, and environmental and law enforcement officials from the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Attorneys from the Maine and New York states Attorney General offices and the U.S. Department of Justice.

This border sweep comes six weeks after the EPA and Customs Service signed an agreement on the coordination of enforcement of U.S. environmental import-export laws. The sweep also is part of a cooperative program between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., being conducted with the assistance of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Mexico sent an official observer to the operation.

In the past 18 months, the EPA conducted 16 investigations of illegal CFC smuggling resulting in 11 criminal indictments and nine convictions. Pollution Solutions of Canada pleaded guilty to the illegal importation of 625 tons of lead contaminated hazardous waste from Canada to Coventry, Vermont.