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Scrap dealer must pay for refrigerant release

3764494_snewsUSA: A Wisconsin scrap metal merchant has agreed to pay $20,000 in forfeitures, court costs, and mandatory surcharges for intentionally releasing ozone-depleting refrigerant to atmosphere.

According to the complaint, from June 1, 2011 to September 8, 2011, Metals America and company boss Harvey E Siegel, both of Green Bay, Wisconsin, intentionally released ozone-depleting refrigerant gases into the atmosphere while dismantling freezers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners. During this time, Metals America employees, at the direction of Siegel, cut the refrigerant lines on at least 145 refrigerant-bearing appliances.

 In the complaint brought by the State of Wisconsin, a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) environmental warden interviewed Siegal at the Metals America recycling facility in August 2009, who is said to have admitted that he instructed his employees to cut refrigerant lines of any appliances that still had them intact. A citation was issued and the rules and regulations pertaining to the recovery of refrigerant explained. Metals America was found guilty on September 10, 2009, and paid a penalty of $867.50.

Following that incident, three informants contacted the DNR alleging that Metals America continued to cut refrigerant lines on salvaged appliances.

On consecutive days in September 2011, two undercover DNR investigators delivered eight refrigerant-bearing appliances to the recycling facility to be salvaged. On one of those visits a DNR investigator claimed to have observed a Metals America employee cutting a charged refrigerant line with a bolt cutter. It was further alleged that employees admitted to investigators that they cut the refrigerant lines on all of the appliances in a similar manner.

The following day two DNR wardens visited and alleged that employees again admitted that they cut the lines on all appliances with intact lines, venting the refrigerant to atmosphere. The wardens said they observed approximately 145 loose compressors in the yard with cut marks on each refrigerant line, resembling cut marks caused by a bolt cutter or reciprocating saw.

In November 2011, Siegal was interviewed and is said to have admitted that from June to September 2011 his employees had dismantled refrigerant bearing appliances and released refrigerant to atmosphere. He is also said to have advised that Metal America was not registered with the DNR to salvage or dismantle refrigeration equipment and never provided any of the metal processors with documentation that the refrigerants had been removed.

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