June 29, 2006
Rolla, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today filed a lawsuit to force the cleanup of a site in rural Phelps County containing several thousand used computer monitors. Nixon said the monitors, collected over a period of several years with a little-realized goal of recycling some of their components, pose a potential environmental and safety hazard because of toxic materials they contain, such as mercury and lead. There also is evidence that monitors were recently burned at the site, he said.
Nixon is suing property owner Robert Sooter and Jon Roberts, the owner of a recycling business on the site, which is known as Echo Valley. The lawsuit cites violations of Missouri hazardous waste and solid waste laws, as well as alleging that the dumping and burning of the monitors at the site constitutes a public nuisance.
“As many Missourians update their computer hardware every few years, so-called e-waste or e-scrap has become a major environmental challenge,” Nixon said. “This site is the result of an ill-conceived attempt to gather computer monitors from businesses, schools, organizations and individuals in several states and recycle components that might have some value. The idea never took off, and the result is an eyesore that also poses an illegal environmental hazard.”
Most of the monitors were dumped at the Echo Valley site north of Rolla by Elmer Dillard, who was attempting to operate a recycling business. Nixon said that although some of the monitors had been removed from Echo Valley after Dillard stopped doing business, the many thousands of monitors remaining there constitute an illegal hazardous waste and solid waste disposal site. In addition, more monitors and other e-waste had been brought in through the current recycling business owned by Roberts, Nixon said.
The lawsuit asks the Phelps County Circuit Court to order the defendants to:
In its publication, “Electronics Reuse and Recycling,” the Environmental Protection Agency states that the useful life of a computer is three to five years and shrinking. The publication also cites a study by the National Safety Council that estimated that more than 63 million personal computers would be retired in 2005.
“This is a problem that will only continue to grow unless appropriate and easily accessible means are developed for consumers to recycle their old computer equipment,” Nixon said. “Open dumps of computer equipment certainly aren't the answer, and this site near Rolla must cleaned up by the parties who are responsible for it.”
Computer maker Dell Inc. announced Wednesday (June 28) that it plans to start a free computer equipment recycling program for American consumers sometime this fall. Nixon said the cooperation of major electronic manufacturers such as Dell would have to be a vital part of any widespread, successful effort to reduce e-waste.