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Kansas City Area Laboratory Owner Convicted of Illegally Storing Hazardous Waste

 

Yesterday, a federal judge found Ahmed el-Sherif, the owner, operator, and radiation safety officer for Beta Chem Laboratory in Lenexa, Kansas, guilty of illegally storing hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Stephen R. McAllister for the District of Kansas, and Jessica Taylor, Director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Honorable Julie A. Robinson issued a written verdict following the trial, which took place in February 2018. El-Sherif wanted, and was permitted, to waive his right to a jury trial and the case was heard by Judge Robinson in what is known as a “bench trial.”

El-Sherif, a trained chemist of Leawood, Kansas, started Beta Chem in the mid-1990s after having worked at several other radioactive synthesis laboratories. He used radioactive Carbon-14 and solvents in his operation, under license by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). KDHE has assumed regulatory authority for these purposes from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Atomic Energy Act.

After Beta Chem was unable to provide KDHE with the required financial assurances regarding decommissioning the lab in the event that it was closed, KDHE inspected Beta Chem and discovered extensive radioactive contamination throughout the laboratory, including some parts of the lab with levels so high their instruments could not accurately read them. The radioactive contamination extended to the laboratory furniture, the equipment, including refrigerators, and containers of chemicals that were supposed to be non-radioactive. The next day, KDHE issued an Emergency Order of Suspension of License.

EPA conducted a hazardous waste inspection the same month, and subsequently notified el-Sherif of hazardous waste violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA also informed el-Sherif of his legal obligation to properly manage hazardous waste under RCRA. During the ensuing years, KDHE communicated with el-Sherif about the radioactive contamination at Beta Chem and they entered into a consent agreement in which he agreed to come up with a plan to remediate and dispose of the radioactive waste. While he engaged a number of consultants, el-Sherif never took any action to actually clean up the lab. Read more

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Kansas City Area Laboratory Owner Convicted of Illegally Storing Hazardous Waste