Businessman charged with felony for mishandling hazardous waste

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hennepin County authorities have charged the president of an electronics salvaging company with unlawful handling of hazardous wastes.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged Curtis Weston Hilleren, 68, of St. Louis Park by summons and a first court appearance is expected to be scheduled soon.

Hilleren is the general manager of Electronic Salvage Industries, LLC in Hopkins. According to the criminal complaint (PDF), the Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services received a complaint on Aug. 29, 2011 that Hilleren had placed crushed glass from television sets and computer monitors into a roll-off box that was to be dumped at a landfill.

It is illegal to discard television sets and computer monitors with cathode ray tubes in the trash because they contain a large amount of lead. If disposed of improperly, lead in the environment can pollute air and water, harm wildlife and pose a threat to human health, particularly the brain development of children.

On its website, Electronic Salvage claims to recycle electronic equipment in a manner that exceeds state and federal regulations, protects the community and requires no landfilling. Matt Petersen, a hazardous waste inspector from Hennepin County Environmental Services, went to the company’s office to follow up on the complaint in August. Petersen saw the roll-off box containing plastic frames of discarded televisions and computer monitors and what looked like glass from cathode ray tubes. Petersen questioned Hilleren about the roll-off box and, after at first denying that it belonged to his company, Hilleren admitted to ordering the box and placing the glass in it.

Petersen embargoed the roll-off box so that it could not be removed by the waste company. On Sept. 14, Petersen arrived with technical staff from Pace Analytical who sampled the nearly two tons of waste in the box and found 122 micrograms per liter of lead, more than 22 times the state limit of 5 micrograms per liter.

“Hilleren ignored warnings and deliberately continued to pollute our environment,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. “All of us, and especially our grandchildren, cannot tolerate these crass acts of pollution.”

This is not the first time the county has found Hilleren improperly handling electronic waste. In 2009, Petersen saw a cathode ray tube in the company’s dumpster. Hilleren was ordered to remove the computer and document how the company would prevent a similar mistake in the future.

The single count of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste was filed April 19 and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.