State Accuses FedEx of Mishandling Hazardous Waste 1,500 Times over 6 Years

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

When hazardous waste “absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” FedEx does not always take the necessary care in handling it, according to a complaint (pdf) filed by the California Attorney General’s office last week.

Based on information gathered by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the attorney general filed a civil complaint in Sacramento County Superior Court against FedEx, accusing the company of mishandling all manner of toxic waste in California on 1,500 occasions dating back to 2008.

The complaint alleges that when FedEx found that a package containing hazardous materials was damaged, defective, broken or leaking at one of its three hubs or 31 terminals, the company would either ship the package to the recipient, rewrap the package and send it back to the sender, or take it out of the package and hang on to it.

None of those solutions were deemed satisfactory, or legal, by the state. Paul Kewin, the head of DTSC enforcement, told Associated Press that the complaint was filed after yearlong discussions failed to change company practices to the agency’s satisfaction. KPCC reported that FedEx and DTSC have been butting heads for awhile and the company sued DTSC and the three counties in federal court earlier this year, claiming that federal law trumps state law and it has broken no laws.

The hazardous products included “acids, solvents, paints, aerosols, cleaners, automotive fluids, insecticides, electronics, batteries, and other toxic, flammable, and/or corrosive materials.” The complaint alleges that the hubs were not authorized to handle such materials, which were shipped without the proper labeling, registrations and manifests.

Hazardous materials kept on site would be put in salvage drums, and those at terminals  would eventually be shipped to a hub. The hubs are in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Bernardino counties.

DTSC spokesman Jorge Moreno told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that there were no incidents involving injury, but “once a package of cleaning fluid or other hazardous material becomes broken, it becomes hazardous waste, and they didn’t have the permits to transport or receive it.”

Each of the violations is subject to a fine of up to $25,000. That pencils out to $35 million if each of the 1,500 violations rate the highest penalty.

“No one got injured, but once a package of cleaning fluid or other hazardous material becomes broken, it becomes hazardous waste, and they didn’t have the permits to transport or receive it,” said

A statement from FedEx said, “Safety is essential to our business and FedEx complies with all applicable local, state and federal reporting requirements.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

State Says FedEx Ground Mishandled Hazardous Waste Materials in California (by Mark Glover, Sacramento Bee)

FedEx Targeted in State Hazardous Waste Complaint (by David Danelski, Riverside Press-Enterprise)

California Toxic Regulators Sue FedEx over Handling of Hazardous Shipments (by Molly Peterson, KPCC)

California Accuses FedEx of Waste Violations (by Scott Smith, Associated Press)

Embattled State Toxics Department Director Debbie Raphael Leaving for S.F. Job (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

California v. FedEx (Sacramento County Superior Court) (pdf)


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