Saying the former owner of a St. Paul metal plating company needs to be held accountable for leaving more than 150 barrels and open vats of hazardous chemicals behind, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum this week called for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to file federal criminal charges.

In an Aug. 24 letter to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, McCollum wrote:

“The decision by the owner of Plating, Inc. to abandon 82 open vats and 76 drums of toxic chemicals is an environmental crime that must be prosecuted. The fact that individuals walked away from vats and drums containing sodium hydroxide, chromic acid, sodium cyanide, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, chromium, and zinc without informing regulators or public safety officials is an act of negligence and public endangerment.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Friday acknowledged receiving the request and added, “it’s something we take very seriously and will be looking into.”

EPA documents identify Ron Glebus as the former chief executive of Plating Inc. He could not be reached for comment Friday morning.

The building, located at 888 N. Prior Av. in St. Paul’s Midway area, was abandoned in April 2016, with Glebus telling EPA officials that he had no money to clean up the hazardous waste that was left inside, according to case documents. Emergency crews are expected to begin removing the chemicals soon, with the action expected to take as long as 65 days.

The EPA has allocated $1.6 million to clean up the site, which had been home to a plating shop since 1938.

During removal, EPA officials said they will conduct air monitoring in the building and at the perimeter “to ensure that residents and nearby business occupants are not exposed,” according to a memorandum by David Morrison, an emergency response coordinator with the EPA. “EPA will also develop a contingency plan to notify all state, county and local officials and residents if there is an emergency,” the memo said.

The cleanup will be conducted during normal business hours to minimize disturbance to the neighborhood and is expected to be done by the end of the year.

McCollum’s office last week hosted a neighborhood meeting on the issue. Some neighbors live only 15 feet from the building, near the corner of Prior and Taylor avenues.

In her letter to Pruitt, McCollum said she appreciates the EPA’s ongoing “efforts and cooperation” and she lauded the EPA officials’ quick response.