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LELAND, NC (WWAY) — A company and its owner have pleaded guilty in federal court for violations of environmental regulations that led to a Superfund site in Leland.

The US Attorney’s Office says P&W Waste Oil Services, Inc., and its owner, Benjamin Franklin Pass, 60, pleaded guilty today to violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as well as for making false statements and failing to pay several years of due taxes. The defendants admitted to, among other things, the unlawful handling of a toxic substance. The resulting contamination was so widespread that the company’s facility has been declared a Superfund Site, prosecutors said.

“This disregard of environmental protections resulted in significant contamination,” United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker said in a news release. “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.””

As part of the plea agreements, P&W agreed to pay restitution in the estimated amount of $19 million, as compensation to victims Colonial Oil and International Paper for the costs associated with the storage and proper disposal of PCB-contaminated used oil as well as any monetary losses associated with the illegal handling, storage and transportation of toxic substances. P&W also agreed to a five-year term of probation and to take remedial action to address the environmental contamination at its facility in eastern North Carolina and other leased property in eastern North Carolina, including but not limited to, the proper treatment and/or disposal of PCB-contaminated waste oil.

Pass agreed to pay $538,587, plus interest, in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for taxes he owed.

According to the charges filed in federal court in Raleigh and information stated in open court, the P&W facility in Leland included a tank farm consisting of multiple tanks ranging from 20,000 gallons to 500,000 gallons. The facility is located approximately 0.1 miles to the east of the Cape Fear River and a US Fish and Wildlife recognized wetland.

As part of its business operations, P&W transported, processed, and marketed on-specification used oil (containing less than 2 parts per million Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)). P&W received 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.

Prosecutors say in July 2009, the defendants knowingly failed to comply with regulations covering PCB-3 contaminated used oil by unlawfully transporting, storing, and disposing of used oil contaminated with PCBs. Specifically, waste oil containing fluid from five PCB-transformers was transported from a site in Wallace, SC, to the P&W facility. The investigation revealed that the waste oil was contaminated with PCB concentrations in excess of 500 parts per million.

Despite knowledge of the investigation into the defendants’ illegal handling of PCB-contaminated used oil, the defendants continued to unlawfully dilute the contaminated used oil. The mishandling of the PCB-contaminated used oil resulted in the wide-spread contamination at the site and other sites, resulting in millions of dollars in clean-up costs.

PCBs pose such an unreasonable risk of injury to human health and the environment that effective January 1, 1978, Congress banned the production of PCBs and mandated that no person may distribute in commerce, or use any PCBs other than in a totally enclosed manner, and directed the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate rules phasing out the manufacture of PCBs and regulating their disposal.

Currently, efforts are underway to clean up the contamination at P&W’s facility in Leland, which has been designated a Superfund site by the EPA. Superfund is the name given to the federal environmental program established to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

Comment on this Story

  • resident

    5 years probation and a fine? A slap on the wrist for the Financial Elite while everyone else gets jail time! Give this criminal what he deserves!

  • Guest-o-matic

    …intentionally put public health at risk and destroy the environment to the point it is designated as a “Superfund” site, SOMEBODY’S backside should be spending some substantial time in prison!
    All I’m hearing here is the “company” is fined and put on probation. “Somebody” ran that company, allowed this to happen and should be held accountable! Our “justice system” is absolutely incredible!!!

  • Vog46

    Are people too.

    Until it comes to this stuff.

    Then they’re corporations again……..


  • miss1

    Intentionally my behind! Listen, first of all Mr. Pass is only one man. The owner of this ‘corporation’. Do you realize he hired people to check for contaminants and to handle matters like these? Did you know that the oil that they received was contaminated without his knowledge? No. All of you ‘arm chair captains’ should find out how a company works before spouting off at the mouth. Mr. Pass took responsibility as the owner of that business and with all the fines he has to pay I think is punishment enough for hiring inapt people to work for him who should’ve done THEIR JOBS in the first place! And what about the company who sold the contaminated oil to begin with?
    Do you expect the owner of the Waffle House to come and make sure your eggs aren’t rotten before they’re cooked?

  • Guest93247

    This is in Navassa, not Leland. The same town who wanted the Hugo Neu Auto fluff landfill. While the mailing address is Leland, you have to go out on S. Navassa Rd, near the closed boat factory to get there.

    Overall, this is a really bad situation, since they probably diluted it down, and it wound up getting burned in facilities that could burn waste oil as fuel. PCBs, when burned, turn into dioxins. Real bad stuff. I wonder how much of it made it into the river, and is now in local fish and shellfish?


  • Tom Looney

    The real “Ben Franklin” (see above for guy’s name) must be rolling over in his grave…unless he’s unable roll over due to the pollution seeping into his resting place! Yeah, but seriously, the EPA is bad for business, right? I mean, who needs laws to protect the land/air/water…just let business people self-regulate and they’ll do the right thing, just like this guy…isn’t that the echo from the polluter-industrial complex? I mean, I’m sure he would be strongly defended by a certain type of elected official, provider the polluter provides a certain level of cash to that type of politician. Ho hum, just another day in paradise!

  • SnatchHammer

    The great thing about being a corporate citizen is there is no one who can be held accountable for their actions.

  • Vog46

    ” Did you know that the oil that they received was contaminated without his knowledge?”

    I find that hard to believe.
    All waste oils are supposed to be subjected to a “Tox screen” that includes PCB level monitoring. If he picked it up without a Tox Screen report attached – he’s guilty. If he was supposed to do one and didn’t he’s guilty.
    At some point the oil had to have been checked.
    I never shipped a load of hazardous waste without one (but I was in a different state then). Every 55gal drum had to have it attached with copies to the driver.; Labels attached showing flammable, toxic, etc. The ONLY way you can determine the correct albel is to have? A tox Screen done !!!!
    This was years ago……
    Sorry, your story doesn’t sound right…


  • Guest-o-matic

    Mr. Pass is only one man. One man at the helm of a corporation that should be certified to handle hazardous material under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (as I am). Regulations are clear and present to all that handle HazMat. The people of the corp. are to be properly trained and certified and are fully aware of the potential ramifications for not abiding by these regulations!
    I know how corporations work and I know how the proper handling of hazardous materials works, so there simply is no need for you to pawn off your trivial excuses of Mr. Pass “relying on others” and “not knowing what he was receiving”. His conviction is based on him being in charge and being responsible for the profuse contamination of inhabited land mass and endangerment of the public to hazardous substances. His willful neglect to follow regulations and to intentionally expose humans to toxins stem from greed and the desire to make heavy profits. Perhaps he was just “dumb”? Highly doubtful with his ability to promptly pay 19MM in fines!
    Looks to me like YOU’RE the one that needs an education in regulatory compliance and business ethics. That is, only if your willing to get up out of that sweaty armchair of YOURS and attempt to do some serious studying. You sure as hell didn’t do it here!

  • Vog46

    The buck stops at his desk unfortunately.
    And ignorance of the regulation is not a defense that can be used.
    He needs to check on his people and their activities including the testing done. Was it at a reputable company? Did they do it themselves?
    Back in the day we had a list of state acceptable labs that were authorized to do this sort of testing we could not do it ourselves. If the lab screwed up they could lose their state certification and it was big business for those labs.
    Your story still doesn’t ring true for me and your defense of he didn’t know is definitely suspicious….


  • miss1

    If you even bothered to read the rest of my comment, you would have read he paid people to check the pcb’s. Again, without his knowledge! The news makes it sound like they took and poured oil directly into our rivers and oceans, when in fact it was stored properly at their facility. What the news does not mention is that they could not prove that Mr. Pass intentionally did anything. So they started charging him with anything they could. The prosecution can allege anything my friend. When all is said and done, Mr. Pass owes for back taxes. Not polluting our rivers and oceans.


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