Judge Freezes Assets and Appoints Receiver at Pesticides Distributor in St. Joseph, Missouri
LENEXA, KAN. (FEB. 8, 2022) - On Jan. 14, 2022, Judge Greg Kays of the Western District of Missouri issued an order appointing a receiver to take control of facilities owned by defendants HPI Products Inc., St. Joe Properties LLC, and William Garvey, after the defendants repeatedly failed to comply with a 2011 settlement intended to resolve alleged longstanding violations of state and federal environmental laws.
“We are encouraged by Judge Kays’ ruling,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Meg McCollister. “For too long, HPI Products Inc. has put its workers, the surrounding community, and the environment at risk by failing to comply with its legal requirements to safely store and dispose of hazardous waste. This ruling reinforces the joint efforts of the federal government and the state to protect health and enforce environmental laws.”
The defendants operate six pesticide manufacturing, storage, and distribution facilities in St. Joseph, Missouri. According to the government’s Court filings, since at least 2007, the defendants stored thousands of containers of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes at its facilities in an overburdened community of the city. EPA and state inspectors repeatedly found rusted and/or leaking containers and observed that the facilities themselves were dilapidated with some buildings partially collapsed or in danger of collapse.
The judge’s order grants a June 2021 motion filed by the plaintiffs, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state of Missouri, Missouri Attorney General, and Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The order temporarily freezes the defendants’ assets and enables the receiver to access and take control of the defendants’ buildings, assets, and limited operations for a period of 60 days. During that time, the receiver will determine if the defendants have the assets to comply with the 2011 settlement, which included requirements for cleaning up defendants’ facilities.
The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in 2008, alleging violations of multiple state and federal environmental laws, and seeking penalties and work to be performed by the defendants to identify the waste at its facilities and initiate cleanup efforts. The defendants agreed to a settlement in 2011 but, according to EPA, only sporadic progress was made while the defendants continued to stockpile hazardous wastes at their facilities.
In 2018, the plaintiffs filed a motion to hold the defendants in contempt and to appoint a receiver to take over the defendants’ operations. The motion was granted, but the plaintiffs agreed to pause the order after the defendants pledged to comply, and established and funded an escrow account to pay for compliance efforts. After continued noncompliance with the cleanup efforts, however, the plaintiffs moved the Court last June to reinstate the 2018 order and also asked the Court to freeze the defendants’ assets and prohibit the further generation of waste.
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