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Iron Pipe Maker Mcwane, Executives Sentenced for Enviro Crimes

Published by MAC on 2005-12-09

Iron Pipe Maker Mcwane, Executives Sentenced for Enviro Crimes

Environmental News Service (ENS)

9th December 2005

WASHINGTON, DC - Cast-iron pipe manufacturer McWane Inc. and company executives James Delk, Michael Devine, and Charles Barry Robison were sentenced Monday in federal court for environmental crimes connected with the operation of McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama.

Judge Robert Propst sentenced McWane to pay a fine of $5 million and serve a period of probation for five years. McWane, Inc. is also ordered to perform a community service project valued at $2.7 million.

Judge Propst ordered Delk to serve probation for three years, including six months of home detention and a fine of $90,000. Devine received two years of probation, including three months of home detention and a fine of $35,000. Robison received two years of probation and a fine of $2,500, and was ordered to do 150 hours of community service work.

After a six week trial in June, McWane as well as Delk, a former vice president and general manager; and Devine, a former plant manager and current employee of McWane in New Jersey, were found guilty of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act by discharging industrial process wastewater into Avondale Creek in Birmingham through storm drains, in violation of their permit.

McWane and Delk also were convicted of 18 counts of discharging hydraulic oil and sludge containing zinc and lead into Avondale Creek and eventually Village Creek, which runs into Bayview Lake, between May 1999 and January 2001. Devine was convicted of seven counts of discharging pollutants into Avondale Creek between May 1999 and January 2000.

In a related count, McWane and Robison, the company's vice president for environmental affairs, were convicted of making a false statement to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by misrepresenting that various locations relating to wastewater management were acceptable when this was not an accurate description of those locations. Many inspections the company said were held, in fact, had not been conducted.

“The evidence at trial depicted years of illegal discharges and concerted efforts by company officials to hide those discharges from state and federal regulators,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Another McWane employee, Donald Harbin, pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to violate environmental laws connected with the operation of McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company. Harbin oversaw maintenance activities at the company during a time when it was discharging processed waste water into Avondale Creek in Birmingham in violation of a federal permit. Harbin is scheduled to be sentenced on December 19.

“Discharging of untreated or improperly treated industrial wastewater and pollutants are primary contributors to the impairment of water quality in our nation,” said Granta Nakayama, the EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.

“This jury found a conspiracy between McWane, Inc. and its highest positioned employees at the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company to violate the Clean Water Act and to make false statements to the EPA,” said U.S. Attorney Alice Martin. “It is critical that we enforce criminal environmental laws against corporate wrongdoers and their employees, so that Birmingham residents are protected from the harm caused by a company putting pipe and profits above the public’s welfare.”

“The FBI is fully committed to investigating environmental matters that pose a significant risk to public safety. We are very pleased with the outcome of this case, the interagency cooperation involved, and the strong message sent that environmental crimes will not be tolerated, ” said Carmen Adams, special agent in charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case represents the third conviction of a McWane company in the past year.

In November, Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Company, a division of McWane, Inc. in Provo, Utah, and two executives were charged with committing conspiracy, Clean Air Act violations, and submitting false statements to the government. The six-count indictment named McWane, as well as Robison and Charles Matlock, former vice president of McWane, Inc. and general manager of Pacific States.

In September, Union Foundry Company, a division of McWane, Inc. and an iron foundry in Anniston, Alabama, was sentenced to pay $4.25 million in criminal fines and community service, and serve probation for three years. Union Foundry pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging illegal treatment of hazardous waste and worker safety violations that resulted in the death of an employee, Reginald Elston.

In March 2005, Tyler Pipe Company, a division of McWane in Tyler, Texas, pleaded guilty to submitting a false statement and violating the Clean Air Act. The federal district court ordered Tyler Pipe to pay a criminal fine of $4.5 million and serve probation for five years.

In December 2003 in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Atlantic States, a division of McWane of Birmingham, Alabama, and several managers were charged with conspiracy to violate federal clean air and water regulations and laws governing workplace safety, as well as obstruction of criminal and regulatory investigations by EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This case is now in the midst of a four month jury trial in Trenton, New Jersey.

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