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Palo Alto man pleads guilty to illegally transporting hazardous materials

Resident owned shipping company that didn't properly label packages with chemicals

A Palo Alto man pleaded guilty to felony charges of illegally shipping and receiving hazardous and toxic materials through his shipping company, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

Peiwen Zhou, 55, admitted he didn't competently train employees to comply with two federal laws when he appeared in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. District Judge James Donato on Wednesday. He faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when he's sentenced on April 18.

Zhou and the company he owned, AK Scientific Inc. in Union City, were indicted in February. He faced a single felony count against the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and a misdemeanor count for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Federal investigators found the workers didn't properly label, mark and identify packages to alert the recipients of hazardous materials on multiple occasions.

The employees also failed to file import certifications required under the TSCA when they ordered chemical substances coming into the country, prosecutors said. In one instance, the company received a package from China containing 1,2-dibromoethane, but the substance was labeled under a different name. The cancer-causing chemical was used as an additive in lead gasoline and a pesticide in soil and on citrus, vegetable and grain crops, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, he will step down from his post at AK Scientific Inc. and cease participation in the company's shipping and regulatory transactions.

The business, which also was charged in the case, has agreed to pay $100,000 and bring itself to federal compliance through an independent monitor. The federal case against the shipper will be dismissed if it complies with the agreement for three years, which in part requires the company to adhere to safety guidelines and labeling requirements, prosecutors said.

"Americans must be protected from those who skirt laws designed to protect workers and the public from mismanagement of toxic substances," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a press release. "The illegal importation and shipment of toxic substances in this case represents a clear threat to public safety and we will hold the responsible parties accountable under the law."

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Aisha
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 23, 2017 at 7:46 pm

He deserves to serve time in jail and pay the fine. He was not only a threat to the general public, he also put his workers in danger. The employees should sue him after this case is over. I’m wondering how this case got caught on to the authorities? I’m sure we have more slime balls like Peiwen Zhou operating in the Bay Area.


2 people like this
Posted by Eileen Wright
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 24, 2017 at 3:06 pm

"He faced a single felony count against the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and a misdemeanor count for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)."

Mr. Zhou would be a free man if Donald Trump kept his campaign pledges to repeal these environmental extremist anti-business federal laws.


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