WILMINGTON, N.C. – A Wilmington man who has pleaded guilty to violating the federal Toxic Substances Act, making false statements, and failing to pay several years of taxes, has been ordered to pay $19 million in restitution, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
Benjamin Franklin Pass, 60, and his Leland, N.C.-based business P&W Waste Oil Services, Inc., admitted to unlawful dumping of waste oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxic substances that resulted in widespread contamination of land adjoining the Cape Fear River and a federally recognized, ecologically sensitive wetland.
Pass, whose property held multiple tanks ranging from 20,000 gallons to 500,000 gallons in size, admitted to unlawfully handling the toxic waste, which led to the site being declared a Superfund Site – the name given to uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that are targeted by the federal government for cleanup. The land contaminated by Pass and his company will cost taxpayers several million dollars to clean up. Environmental cleanup and decontamination operations are ongoing at the site.
U.S. Attorney’s Office Spokesman Don Connelly said that PCBs pose “such an unreasonable risk of injury to human health and environment” that Congress banned production of them in 1978.
Pass’s business operations included transporting, processing, and marketing used oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). P&W collected the used oil from small and large companies, such as automotive service stations, transformer repair companies, and marinas. P&W also conducted tank cleaning and waste removal.
“This disregard of environmental protections resulted in significant contamination. The defendant’s conduct placed an economic burden on the United States and an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of the citizens of North Carolina,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said.
As part of the plea agreements, Pass agreed to pay $538,587 plus interest in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. P&W agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $19 million in compensation for monetary losses associated with its illegal handling, storing and transporting of toxic waste. The company also agreed to a five-year probation term and to take remedial action to address environmental contamination at its Eastern North Carolina facilities.