Officials hope for change with HPI in receivership | Government
Once again, HPI Products is in receivership, a position the company has been in before and little has changed. The federal court hopes this second time is different.
Since the federal government first sued HPI in 2008, the chemical company has been fined, ordered to clean up and lawsuits settled. The owner, William Garvey, even went to jail.
According to city and federal lawsuits, chemicals at HPI are not stored properly, often in leaking or rusting barrels, resulting in rainwater mixing with the chemicals and then entering the water system. sewers.
HPI has been cited at least 14 times for failing to comply with municipal ordinances. These violations include “a 2018 chemical spill that dumped high levels of pesticides into … the sewer system and the Missouri River.”
Garvey could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.
“The progress made? It’s still a mystery,” said Diane Waddell, a member of Ecumenical Eco-Justice of St. Joseph, a nonprofit group that educates and advocates for environmental issues.
However, Aimee Davenport, the attorney representing the city in her own lawsuit against HPI, said there was a “surge of energy” on the federal side to see progress and the case was getting “a lot of attention.” “.
The federal court appointed Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc. as temporary receiver in January — the second in four years. His job is to see if HPI has the funds to clean up its facilities and if it can operate safely.
Within a month of the appointment, the receiver filed two status reports indicating that it is still trying to identify all assets. He contracted with an environmental compliance consultant, Environmental Works, Inc., to help “scale down” operations at HPI’s main office at 222 Sylvanie St. and oversee “limited operations” at 1301 and 1421 S. 11th St.
The temporary receiver is also working with an offsite disposal facility to “safely and properly manage, transport and dispose of 20,000 pounds of hazardous waste” to comply with the court’s 2011 consent decree, which HPI did not have. not followed yet.
Waddell is a former nurse practitioner at the Social Welfare Board, where she said she saw many patients who worked at HPI.
“I was just surprised by their situation,” Waddell said. “It’s not good to breathe in these toxic chemicals or put them on your skin because they get absorbed into your skin.”
Greenfield Environmental Trust Group still has about a month as receiver, but said it would not be able to continue in the role beyond the initial 60-day period and that HPI should expect a “transition ordered” after the initial mandate.
“Sometimes the wheels of justice roll very slowly,” said St. Joseph Mayor Bill McMurray. “Things don’t always move very quickly in federal court.”
Davenport, the city attorney, said she’s “optimistic” about what the receiver can accomplish. Whatever happens in the next 30 days, and possibly more if the court extends the receivership with another company, directly affects the city’s lawsuit against HPI because the EPA guidelines are broader than the city code.
“It just needs to be closed as soon as possible and this company takes ownership of the cleanup and doesn’t force the city to do it,” Waddell said.