JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Three Mississippi companies are accused in a federal lawsuit of illegally importing and selling more than 78,000 small engines made in China.
The engines did not meet federal air pollution standards, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice said Thursday in a joint news release.
The lawsuit marks the government's first court action in an effort to enforce emissions standards for portable generators, water pumps and other small engines, the EPA said.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against PowerTrain Inc., Wood Sales Co. Inc., and Tool Mart Inc., all based in Golden, a northeast Mississippi town near the Alabama state line.
A search of the Mississippi Secretary of State's Web site found Oneal Wood of Golden listed as president of all three companies.
Wood did not immediately return a phone message left at his home.
"That's just the government for you," a Wood Sales spokesman told The Associated Press about the lawsuit. He did not give his name and immediately hung up the phone.
A phone listing could not be found for PowerTrain Inc. and a message left with a spokeswoman for Tool Mart was not immediately returned.
EPA spokesman Dave Ryan said the engines were sold across the country online and through telemarketing. EPA estimates the 78,000 engines have contributed to excess emissions of more than 150 tons of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides and more than 5,000 tons of carbon monoxide.
The complaint says the "non-road" engines were imported and sold by the companies from September 2002 through at least May 2007. The engines emit carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, that contribute to smog.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and for the companies to remedy the violations.