What are the Penalties for Federal Toxic Waste Dumping Crimes? Federal Attorney talks Toxic Waste Dumping Penalties

Analysts examine a toxic waste dumping site in South Florida, toxic waste dumping can be a serious federal crimeWhat is Federal Toxic Waste Dumping?

Toxic waste dumping is when an individual disposes of hazardous or non-hazardous waste/chemicals into a public or private area that is not owned by the individual who is disposing such materials. 

If not given permission by the government or private landowner, it is a crime to dump toxic waste into any public or private land. If an individual commits such crimes in multiple states and there is not a permit of disposal, the crime then becomes a federal crime. 

Regulations by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) considers toxic waste dumping a crime by:

  • Illegally exporting hazardous waste
  • Transporting, treating or disposing of a hazardous waste in a way that puts another person(s) in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
  • Treating, storing or disposing of hazardous waste without a permit  
  • Treating, storing or disposing of hazardous waste in a way which knowingly violates a permit
  • Knowingly transporting a hazardous waste without a regulation required manifest.

Types of Toxic Waste

“Hazardous, or toxic, waste is the potentially dangerous byproduct of a wide range of activities, including manufacturing, farming, water treatment systems, construction, automotive garages, laboratories, hospitals, and other industries,”  According to Carrie Wolters from National Geographic. 

This includes solid and/or liquid waste that can have harmful effects such as pathogens and radiation. Examples include “toxins such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc” which can linger in the environment for long periods of time (Aldag). 

In addition, common household items such as batteries, paints, pesticides, and cleaning products can be harmful and hazardous. Other types of toxic waste include medical waste and debris that can bring illness to others. Any type of chemical, metal, solid, liquid, or sludge that can lead to birth defects, diseases, mutation of cells, and the destruction of nearby ecosystems are a type of toxic waste. 

Byproducts from construction zones, hospitals, automotive garages, laboratories, farms, and energy plants must be handled with care. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, “now requires that hazardous waste be handled with special precautions and be disposed of in designated facilities. Many towns have special collection days for household hazardous waste” (Wolters). 

This prevents public waste from polluting the environment and potentially harming communities. Several types of chemical waste include flammable, reactive, poisonous, corrosive, carcinogenic, and mutagenic compounds and elements. 

Also, dirty dozens or a collection of the world’s most dangerous toxins, can sit in an environment for a longer period of time. When burning paints and plastics, dioxins and furans are released into the air. This is one of several major reasons as to why environmentalists and activists have been pushing for more recycling, reusing, and reducing of certain plastics and papers.

Penalties for Federal Toxic Waste Dumping

Depending on the type of toxic waste, the amount that was dumped, and the location of where the waste was disposed, the penalties can be lesser or more severe. 

Typically, an individual who is found guilty is sentenced to a range of 2 to 15 years in federal prison. In addition,  fines can vary from $50,000 (PER DAY of violation) to $1 million depending on the crime.

Under the United States Federal Protection Agency’s enforcement of the Criminal Provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) various fines and incarceration periods can be faced depending upon the regulation and statute that was violated.

  • Under statute 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(2)(A), if an individual knowingly treats, stores, or disposes of a hazardous waste without a permit, they can face 5 years or more in prison with a fine of $50,000 per day violation (EPA, 2018). 
  • Under statute 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(2)(B) and (C), if a person knowingly treats, stores, or disposes of a hazardous waste in knowing violation of a material permit condition they may face 2 years or more in federal prison with a fine of $50,000 of violation (EPA, 2018).
  • The same penalties apply for an individual who knowingly transports or causes the transportation of a “hazardous waste without a manifest where one is required by the regulations” (EPA, 2018). This falls under statute 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(5).
  • Under statute 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(1), a person who knowingly transports or causes hazardous waste to be transported to a facility that does not have a permit may face five years or more in prison with a fine of fifty thousand of violation (EPA, 2018). 
  • If an individual knowingly “transports, treats, stores, disposes of, or exports a hazardous waste in violation of 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(1) - (7) and; knew that such acts put another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury” they may face fifteen years or more with a two-hundred and fifty thousand dollar fine or a million dollar fine if the crime was perpetrated by an organization (EPA, 2018). This follows statute 42 U.S.C. 6928(e).

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