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Levin orders truck to leave Monroeville warehouse lot without cargo

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By Thomas Olson
Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009

Levin Furniture ordered a tractor trailer off its Monroeville warehouse parking lot on Friday without a cargo of electronic waste that a controversial company had intended to ship away and recycle, said an executive for the retailer.

Levin has begun coordinating with a Seattle-based environmental group to properly dispose of the 2 million pounds of discarded electronic equipment that has clogged the retailer's facility on Route 22 for more than three months.

The environmental watchdog group Basel Action Network, or BAN, interceded Thursday when it learned that recycling company EarthEcycle of Tulsa, Okla., apparently arranged for a small shipment of used computer monitors to Vietnam about two weeks ago, according to documents obtained by the Tribune-Review.

"(BAN) wanted us to find other resources to make sure the (e-waste) is properly recycled — which has been our goal all along," said Ward Dingmann, Levin's vice president of operations.

A tractor trailer parked at the warehouse along Route 22 had been ready to pick up and cart off nearly 50 pallets of discarded televisions and monitors yesterday. They belong to EarthEcycle, which Levin told three months ago to remove from its warehouse. The recycler amassed it from collection drives by local charities to which Levin had donated use of the warehouse.

"But we told them not to load it, in light of everything," said Dingmann. "They are leaving empty."

Hazardous materials — such as lead in cathode-ray tubes and mercury in computer equipment — can cause birth defects and brain damage in children and others when improperly extracted. Investigations by BAN and CBS' "60 Minutes" showed U.S. companies have shipped e-waste to parts of Asia to extract these metals for money.

BAN Executive Director Jim Puckett said he recommended to Levin yesterday several other recycling firms that the group has audited, "which (Levin) could use who are not going to export."

EarthEcycle was cited by the Environment Protection Agency in June for shipping e-waste from Pittsburgh to Hong Kong without notifying the EPA, as required by law. The case is pending.

EarthEcycle President Jeffrey Nixon could not be reached.

"It's technically Nixon's property," said Dingmann. "But if taking ownership is the only way to properly handle this, that's what we will talk to Nixon about."

Dingmann had the scores of pallets stowed back inside the warehouse yesterday, to avoid any possible citation from Monroeville for a code violation.

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