The EPA and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners investigate and prosecute significant and egregious violations of environmental laws. These investigations involve, but are not limited to, the illegal disposal of hazardous waste; the illegal discharge of pollutants to a water of the United States; the illegal importation of certain restricted or regulated chemicals into the United States; tampering with a drinking water supply; mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering relating to environmental criminal activities.
People often ask us, "It seems like companies get away with polluting all the time, just look at Exxon and the Valdez!" While it may be true that some companies treat the environment, your community's well-being and your health like a doormat and act as though their crimes are nothing more than a public relations expense; individuals and companies are being caught all the time. And the penalties are severe! Follow Detective Joe Friday and read on to learn about the appalling gall of these jerks and their crimes.
Disclaimer: The following news stories are all taken verbatim from EPA releases, so don't even think of trying to sue us if you or your firm's name is here! We will WELCOME the publicity! Will your company?
(10/30/2002) EPA Settles with Nortru on Hazardous Waste Violations - CHICAGO -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has reached agreement with Nortru Inc. for alleged hazardous-waste violations at three Detroit, Mich., facilities. The company will pay a $225,000 fine.
(10/30/2002) Nation's Largest Underground Storage Tank Testing Firm Sentenced to Pay $2.29 Million - Tanknology-NDE, International, Inc. was sentenced today in federal district court in Austin, Texas to pay a $1 million criminal fine and restitution of $1.29 million to the United States for false underground storage tank (UST) testing services performed by its employees, the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.
W. VA. COAL COMPANY SUBSIDIARIES CHARGED WITH WATER VIOLATIONS
Independence Coal Co. Inc., and Omar Mining Co. Inc., subsidiaries of Massey Coal Co. Inc., operating in Boone County, W.Va., were charged on Aug. 30 with violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). The charges allege that Independence violated its CWA discharge permit by allowing a leaky pump in its coal preparation plant to discharge wastewater containing elevated levels of solids into Robinson Creek. Omar allegedly allowed water containing elevated levels of solids and manganese from its stormwater control pond to be discharged into Robinson Creek. These levels were above those allowed in Omar's CWA discharge permit. If convicted, the companies each face a maximum fine of up to $200,000 and/or up to five years of probation. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Charleston. The filing of federal charges is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.
COLORADO PLATING COMPANY EXECUTIVE SENTENCED
Mahesh Patel, Executive Vice President of the Jemm Co., a Colorado plating company, was sentenced on Aug. 23 to 12 months and one day imprisonment and one year of supervised release for directing company employees to illegally dispose of plating wastewater in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Patel was responsible for overseeing day-to-day plant operations that generated wastewaters with high concentrations of metal, including chromium, copper, nickel and zinc. Patel directed employees to dump the contents of numerous process tanks, including plating tanks as well as alkaline and acid cleaning tanks, onto the plant floor. The wastewaters from these tanks flowed into two large holding tanks, which were ultimately emptied into the Denver sewer system in violation of the company=s permit barring the discharge of such untreated wastewaters. The Jemm Co. was previously fined $100,000 and required to publish a public apology for its role in these CWA offenses. This case was investigated by EPA=s Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI and the Metropolitan Water District of Denver with the assistance of EPA=s National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney=s office in Denver.
KOPPERS INDUSTRIES PLEADS GUILTY TO CLEAN AIR ACT AND CLEAN WATER ACT CRIMES
Koppers Industries Inc., of Philadelphia, Pa., pleaded guilty on Aug. 22 to two felony violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and one felony violation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in U.S. District Court for the Northen District of Alabama in Birmingham. The convictions resulted from releases of hazardous air and water pollutants, which exceeded permitted limits, at the company's coke production and coal by-products facility in Dolomite, Ala. The facility was later dismantled in 1998. Koppers operated a waste-water treatment plant at the Dolomite facility and also had a storm-water discharge point source permit, which required it to limit the amount of ammonia in its water discharges. The company also was required to submit discharge monitoring reports to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) indicating the level of pollutants contained in its water discharges based upon test results. Koppers admitted that its employees had allowed the discharge of wastewater, which exceeded the permitted level of ammonia in January 1997. In March 1997, its employees knowingly submitted a false report to ADEM which understated the level of ammonia contained in the discharge to conceal the fact that Koppers had violated its permit limits. The CAA violation occurred when a gas blanketing system at the Dolomite facility was improperly operated from April 1-11, 1997. If accepted by the court, the plea calls for Koppers to pay a $2.1 million fine, pay $900,000 in restitution and community service and implement an environmental compliance program at its plants in the United States. The release of ammonia to surface waters can significantly harm fish and wildlife and exposure to benzene is a known cause of cancer. Daniel Bell of Birmingham, Ala., Koppers' former Environmental Manager, previously pleaded guilty to a CWA felony charge. This case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Birmingham and the Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section.
OHIO DRUM CLEANING COMPANY OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATION
Ronald A. Korman, owner of Barrel and Drum Service Inc., in Cincinnati, pleaded guilty on Aug. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati to violating the Clean Water Act. The defendant admitted that, beginning in 1995, his company regularly dumped untreated caustic wastewater into the Cincinnati public sewer system without a permit. In addition, Korman filed semi-annual reports with the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) which falsely stated that he was not discharging unallowed wastes into the sewers. In February 2001, MSD employees detected high pH levels in the sewer system and traced the pollution back to the Barrel and Drum facility. These levels were as high as pH 13 during the time that Barrel and Drum was in operation. Discharging highly caustic wastewater into sewers can damage sewage treatment equipment and can kill bacteria necessary for the proper treatment of sewage in sewage treatment plants. When sentenced, Korman faces a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the MSD and the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Cincinnati.
EXECUTIVES CHARGED AND CORPORATIONS PLEAD GUILTY TO POLLUTION CONSPIRACY TO HIDE OIL DISCHARGES AT SEA
On Aug. 22, in Seok Yang, Gum Hyang Kwon and Young Min Han, all executives of Boyang Maritime Yeong Shin Deep Sea Fisheries Co. of Pusan, Korea, were indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage for their alleged roles in an ocean pollution conspiracy involving the direct discharges of oil from a fleet of large, refrigerated cargo ships that regularly travel through Alaska waters. The indictment charges the individuals of conspiracy to lie to the U.S. Coast Guard in order to conceal the dumping of waste oil from the ships and to obstruct the investigation of the agency and the grand jury. On the same date, Boyang Maritime, Boyang Limited, Trans-Ports International and Oswego Limited all pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, to being part of a wide-ranging conspiracy designed to hide routine discharges of oil sludge and oil contaminated bilge waste directly into the ocean from their fleet of ships since at least 1995. Each company pleaded guilty to a 10-count felony information charging that they worked together to maintain false log books, obstruct justice and tamper with witnesses in order to avoid the expenditure of time, money and other resources that would have been required to comply with the laws designed to prevent oil pollution from ships. If the plea is approved by the court, the corporate defendants will pay a $5 million fine, institute and pay for a comprehensive court-monitored environmental compliance plan and serve five years on probation. One million dollars of the fine will be directed to go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, an area that encompasses the Aleutian Islands. In addition, they will be required to set aside $500,000 in an escrow account as an initial funding for the cost of implementing the environmental plan. This case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI. It is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's office in Anchorage and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice in Washington.
HOUSTON BARGE CLEANING COMPANY SENTENCED FOR CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATION
Western Towing Co. of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to pay a $30,000 fine on Aug. 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). Western Towing formerly operated a barge cleaning operation in Houston. Between May and September 2000, Western Towing used river water to pressure-wash the cargo compartments of barges used to transport dry cargo such as steel products, grain, gravel, sand, fertilizer and gypsum. The company had a CWA discharge permit which allowed it to discharge treated wastewater into the river, however the defendant did not treat the wastewater first. Discharging untreated barge cleaning wastewater into surface waters can harm fish and aquatic life and can make river waters unsuitable for recreational and drinking water use. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Houston Police Department's Environmental Investigations Unit. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston.
TEXAS CHEMICAL PLANT MANAGERS SENTENCED FOR VIOLATING THE CLEAN AIR ACT
Jeffrey L. Jackson, former plant manager for the Huntsman Chemical Plant in Port Arthur, Texas, and Michael Peters, Huntsman's former environmental manager and a former regional manager for the Texas Air Control Board, were sentenced on Aug. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Beaumont for their previous conviction on charges of conspiracy, making a false statement to the EPA and violating the Clean Air Act. Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the defendants illegally allowed benzene to be emitted from a tank that held benzene-contaminated wastewater at the Huntsman facility. The defendants were also convicted of conspiracy to not inform EPA and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission of the benzene releases from the tank, a damaged flare and leaking process equipment. Finally, Jackson and Peters were convicted of falsifying a document to EPA concerning their activities. The emissions from the wastewater tank occurred after it had been struck by lightning on Nov. 2, 1995. The lightning caused a fire that damaged seals on the tank roof. The defendants failed to empty the tank or repair it within 45 days as required by law. They also did not keep the tank filled to the top, which is required to prevent benzene vapor pockets from forming in the tank. The result of their actions was the airborne emission of benzene, which is a cancer-causing chemical. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center, USEPA Region VI personnel, the FBI, the Special Investigation Unit of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department working in coordination with the Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Beaumont.
NORTH CAROLINA MEAT PACKING COMPANY SENTENCED FOR CLEAN WATER ACT CONSPIRACY
For conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act, Lakeview Packing Co. of Snowhill, N.C., was sentenced to pay a $75,000 fine and serve five years probation on Aug. 5 in U.S. Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in Greenville. Lakeview Packing is a hog slaughter and processing company. In its previous plea, the defendant admitted that it conspired with its employees to intentionally discharge processing wastes from its facility through a drainage pipe into Tyson Marsh which empties into Contentnea Creek, which is a tributary of the Neuse River. The amount discharged averaged approximately 30,000 gallons per day. The discharge of animal processing wastes into surface waters can make them unsafe for drinking and recreation and can promote the growth of microorganisms such as pfisteria which can be harmful to fish, wildlife and humans. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Greenville.
CONNECTICUT MAN PLEADS TO CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATION
Anthony Dadalt of Enfield, Conn., pleaded guilty on Aug. 5 in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in Hartford to violating the Clean Water Act by exceeding pollutant limits in a wastewater discharge permit. Dadalt was formerly the Health and Safety manager at a printed circuit board manufacturing facility operated by the Tyco Printed Circuit Group in Manchester, Conn. Tyco Printed Circuit Group is a subsidiary of Tyco International. One of Dadalt's duties was to operate the wastewater treatment facility at the Tyco facility in Manchester. From November 2000 through May 2001, Dadalt used a bypass to knowingly route wastewater produced in the manufacturing process around a sand filter that was supposed to remove impurities from the wastewater before it was discharged into the Manchester sewers. As a result, the wastewater discharged from the factory exceeded the levels of copper and lead allowed in the factory's discharge permit. Copper and lead are both toxic metals which can, if passed through sewage treatment plants, harm fish, aquatic life, wildlife and humans who ingest contaminated surface waters downstream from sewage treatment facilities. When sentenced, Dadalt faces a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Bridgeport.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE PLEADS GUILTY TO ATLANTIC OIL DUMPING
In the seventh major case against a cruise line for dumping at sea, Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. (NCL), pleaded guilty on July 31 and agreed to pay a $1 million fine and an additional $500,000 to environmental community service projects in South Florida. In its plea, NCL admitted to violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships by misleading the U.S. Coast Guard. For several years, NCL concealed the illegal discharge of oil-contaminated bilge waste into the Atlantic Ocean from the SS Norway and at least one other ship by making false statements in the ships' oil record books. After the dumping was reported to EPA by an NCL employee, the company conducted an internal audit and has cooperated with the government's investigation. Dumping oily bilge waste into the ocean can harm fish and other aquatic life. In several previous cases, the Royal Caribbean and Holland America Cruise Lines both paid multi-million dollar penalties for releasing oil into the sea. The NCL case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, the United States Department of Transportation-Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the Miami-Dade Police Department Environmental Investigations Unit and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
SHIP'S CHIEF ENGINEER SENTENCED FOR FALSE WASTE OIL RECORDS
Pyeong Gab Jung of Korea, chief engineer of the Motor Vessel Cygnus, an automobile transport ship, pleaded guilty on July 25 to making false waste oil disposal statements in the ship's record book. He was immediately sentenced to serve three months in prison, following which he will be deported to Korea. Jung fraudulently recorded in the ships's oil record book that waste oil was being incinerated in the ship's incinerator when, instead, it was being discharged into the Pacific Ocean via a secret bypass hose. The Cyngus is owned by Feng Lee Maritime Corp. of Panama City and is operated by Fujitran Corp. of Japan. At the time of the release, it was under charter to ToyoFuji Shipping Co., Ltd., a company jointly owned by Toyota Motor Co., Toyota Shipping Co., Ltd. and Fujitrans Corp. The discharge of oil into the ocean can be harmful to aquatic life. Federal charges, which are merely an accusation, have also been filed against the ship's first assistant engineer, Duk Jo Jung, for his alleged role in concealing the illegal discharge of oil from the Cygnus. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI and the Washington State Department of Ecology. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Portland and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
COMPLEX IMPORTATION SCHEME IN CONNECTICUT RESULTS IN SENTENCING
Alfredo Vega of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, was sentenced to eight months of home detention on July 8 for his involvement with others in a scheme to illegally import hundreds of tons of highly restricted chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The scheme involved the evasion of approximately $7 million in federal excise taxes. The importation of CFCs is restricted under the Clean Air Act because the release of CFCs into the atmosphere damages the earth's ozone layer, which protects people from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light, such as skin cancer and cataracts, and destroys plant life, including crops. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Customs Service with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in New Haven and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
KANSAS COMPANY CO-OWNER, MANAGER SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS
John Dillon, co-owner and manager of Environmental Services and Products Inc., in Kansas City, Kan., was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction for illegally storing hazardous wastes. More than 80 drums of ignitable hazardous wastes were illegally stored at his facility. Illegally storing ignitable hazardous wastes can potentially create a serious fire hazard and can be hazardous to firemen responding to fires at sites where they are unaware of the hazardous wastes stored there. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City.
TENNESSEE MAN ARRESTED, INDICTED FOR PESTICIDE POISONING OF BIRDS
Donald Ray Keel of Trezevant, Tenn., was arrested on July 22. He was indicted on July 18 for allegedly violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by baiting deer carcasses with the pesticide aldicarb. Nine hawks were killed when they ate deer flesh that the defendant is alleged to have poisoned for the purpose of killing the birds. Aldicarb is a highly toxic pesticide which can present a significant risk to humans and wildlife through either direct contact with a poisoned animal or by inhalation. Keel has previously served six months in federal prison after being convicted of a similar offense. The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Memphis. An indictment is merely an accusation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.
FUGITIVE SENTENCED IN SEATTLE FOR FAILING TO APPEAR FOR TRIAL
Sherman Smith, owner of Seawall Construction, a Seattle area marine construction company, was sentenced on July 12 as a result of his June 12 guilty plea to the offense of failing to appear for a judicial proceeding. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment and one year of supervised release. Smith was surrendered to the U.S. Marshall's Service in Tucson, Ariz., on April 1 by the Mexican government. Smith had forfeited $20,000 bail when he failed to appear for trial in federal court in Washington state in May 1996 and had been living in Mexico. Smith was previously charged on Sept. 27, 1995, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle with violating the Clean Water Act. The charges arose from an oil spill that occurred when the M/V Tug Omar sank in Puget Sound. Witnesses alleged that Smith had not properly maintained the tug and knew it was taking on water. Previously, in 1989, Smith had been convicted of pumping oily bilge water into Puget Sound. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Washington State Environmental Crimes Task Force and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Seattle, Wash.
Thomas Reed, Jerry Lindquist and Sheon DiMaio, all of New York state, pleaded guilty to federal felonies arising out of the removal of asbestos. Reed, the General Manager of AAR Contractor Inc., has been charged with 14 counts, including conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as well as multiple tax violations. He faces a maximum sentence of 77 years in prison and/or possible maximum fines of $3.5 million, plus restitution to victims. Reed admits he and others used illegal practices to remove asbestos while failing to notify state and federal authorities of the removals and intentionally contaminating buildings with asbestos in order to defraud owners. He also admits to intentionally leaving asbestos behind after buildings were reportedly clean, obtaining and sending customers false laboratory reports concerning asbestos tests, submitting false invoices and obstructing justice. Lindquist pleaded guilty of conspiring to violate the CAA and TSCA, while also making false statements to EPA investigators. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or up to $1 million in fines, plus restitution to victims. Di Maio pleaded guilty of conspiring to violate the CAA and TSCA and to violating the CAA. He faces a maximum sentence of years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine. Failing to properly remove and dispose of asbestos may lead to the inhalation of asbestos fibers, a cause of lung cancer, as well as a lung disease known as "asbestosis" and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of the Army, the U.S. Postal Service and the New York State Office of Inspector General. Investigative assistance was provided by the New York State Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Health and EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Syracuse.
SIXTH OF NINE DEFENDANTS PLEAS GUILTY IN NEW YORK ASBESTOS CASE
Michael Shanahan of Broadalbin, N.Y., pleaded guilty on July 18 to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Toxic Substances Control Act and to violating the CAA. Shanahan is the sixth of nine defendants to plead guilty in a 10-year illegal asbestos removal scheme involving multiple locations and racketeering in upstate New York. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine. Failure to properly remove and dispose of asbestos can lead to the inhalation of asbestos fibers, which can cause lung cancer, a lung disease known as "asbestosis", or mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of the Army, the U.S. Postal Service and the New York State Office of Inspector General. Investigative assistance was provided by the New York State Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Health and EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Syracuse.
FORMER VIRGINIA TREATMENT PLANT OPERATOR SENTENCED TO PRISON
Richard M. Anthony, formerly of Henry County, Va., was sentenced on July 10 to serve one year in prison and pay over $31,000 in restitution for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging sewage without a permit. Anthony, who was President and owner of Sanville Utilities Inc., constructed and operated the Fairway Acres sewage treatment plant which serviced the Fairway Acres subdivision near Bassett, Va. The defendant failed in 1996 to renew the CWA discharge permit for the plant, which had a capacity of approximately 40,000 gallons per day. In 1999, the defendant failed to pay the plant's electric bill and after repeated attempts to get Anthony to pay the bill, the electric company cut off electric power and partially-treated sewage was then discharged into Blackberry Creek. Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) subsequently determined that the creek had a fecal coliform bacteria level of 160,000 colonies which is 160 times the maximum allowable limit. Bacteria from sewage can cause infections and intestinal diseases in people who come in contact with contaminated surface waters. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and VDEQ. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Roanoke.
UNITED STATES SECURES PLEAS TO 10 FELONY COUNTS IN UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANK CASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Tanknology-NDE, International, Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to 10 felony counts of presenting false claims and making false statements to federal agencies. The guilty pleas were for false underground storage tank (UST) testing services performed by Tanknology employees at federal facilities in 10 different federal districts. Tanknology also has agreed to pay a $1 million criminal fine and restitution of $1.29 million to the United States.
Tanknology has admitted in a plea agreement that from January 1997 until December 1999, Tanknology testers had performed false tests at federal facilities across the country, including U.S. Postal facilities, military bases and a NASA facility. Tanknology is the largest UST testing company in the United States, with four regional offices and six field offices located across the country. Its corporate headquarters are in Austin, Texas.
"Compliance with the underground storage tank requirements is dependent upon accurate information. Those who knowingly place the public and environment at risk by false testing must and will be prosecuted," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "False testing at underground storage tanks presents grave risks and is unacceptable."
"Tanknology was prosecuted and has been held responsible for fraudulent practices that could cause a risk of significant environmental harm at federal facilities. It is essential that federal owners and operators of underground storage tanks be assured that the company providing these important testing services is doing so honestly and accurately," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute such crimes to ensure that the environment is protected."
Underground storage tanks contain petroleum products, including gasoline, and all UST owners and operators are required by law to have their tanks tested to ensure that their systems are not leaking any petroleum into the soil or groundwater. Leaking USTs can present other health and environmental risks, including the potential for fire and explosion.
The pleas arise from an extensive investigation carried out by several federal criminal investigative agencies, in which agents observed Tanknology testers at federal facilities across the country. The false tests ranged from failing to follow required test protocols to "drive-by" tests, where a Tanknology tester was videotaped driving up to a federal facility, driving away after a few minutes and then submitting false data.
In agreeing to plead guilty, Tanknology admitted that the investigation of the corporation produced evidence of a number of improper and/or fraudulent practices carried out by employees. These included:
Tanknology regional managers set schedules for testers that caused some testers to be unable to always conduct valid tests and stay on schedule;
a corporate bonus system rewarded testers in part for the number of tests they performed;
testers knowingly reported test results when, in fact, no tests had been performed; and
quality assurance personnel complained to corporate and regional personnel that testers were inadequately trained and were performing invalid tests, but the corporation failed to implement quality assurance that could have prevented invalid testing practices by testers.
In addition to paying the criminal fine and restitution, Tanknology will serve a term of probation for five years. Tanknology also will implement a quality management system to ensure that false and improper testing practices do not occur again.
Pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States, Tanknology agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges that were filed by United States Attorneys in 10 federal districts, including the Western District of Texas; the Northern District of Texas; the Central District of California; the District of Arizona; the Northern District of Illinois; the Middle District of Florida; the District of South Carolina; the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; the District of Massachusetts; and the District of New Jersey. Tanknology will enter all pleas in the Western District of Texas.
The case was investigated by the following federal criminal investigative agencies, including EPA Criminal Investigation Division, FBI, U.S Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Navy Criminal Investigative Service and NASA. Investigators were assisted by personnel from the Texas Natural Resources and Conservation Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
In a separate case involving fraudulent UST testing, the Justice Department and EPA announced in January 2002 that a former environmental contractor, James Edward Adams of Inman, S.C., had been sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years of supervisory release for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and related crimes. Adams admitted to directing his employees to fraudulently provide false UST test reports to owners and operators of UST facilities located in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee.
Tammany Holding, Corp., Slidell, La., pleaded guilty and was sentenced on July 3 to pay a $300,000 fine for violating the Clean Water Act in 1997 and 1998 by illegally filling a wetland without a permit. The company also violated the Rivers and Harbors Act in 1997 when it dredged and discharged material into Lake Ponchatrain without a permit while in the process of building the Lakeshore Estates development near Lake Ponchatrain. Tammany also will pay $38,000 in restitution to four environmental groups: $20,000 to the Lake Ponchatrain Basin Foundation, $10,000 to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, $5,000 to the Southern Environmental Enforcement Network and $3,000 to Keep Our Peaceful Environment. Wetlands are important natural areas where surface waters are naturally cleansed of pollutants and many species of fish and wildlife live. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in New Orleans.
COLORADO MAN SENTENCED TO 17-YEARS IMPRISONMENT, $100,000 FINE
In a Colorado state case co-investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and National Enforcement Investigations Center (NEIC), Hormoz Pourat was sentenced on July 3 to serve 17 years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine for violating Colorado's Organized Crime Control Act. He is one of the principal managers and owners of a hazardous waste management company known as AAD, which operated in Colorado and California. He also was ordered to pay cleanup and the investigative costs of Colorado's Jefferson County District Court. AAD was a dry cleaning waste disposal company that accepted waste perchloroethylene dry cleaning solvent from dry cleaners throughout the western United States. AAD operated a hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility in Vernon, Calif., and operated a transfer facility in Lakewood, Colo., which also received waste from California and repackaged it for shipment to hazardous waste landfills in Idaho and Nevada. The defendant pleaded guilty to different charges: that AAD's waste handling activities resulted in the illegal storage of hazardous wastes in Colorado; false descriptions of shipments of untreated wastes in order to have the waste illegally buried in Idaho and Nevada; misrepresentations to public servants, including Colorado Department of Health inspectors; and theft of money from dry cleaners who paid for legal waste disposal. Improper handling and disposal of dry cleaning wastes can present a significant health hazard. The case was investigated by EPA's CID and NEIC, environmental agencies of Colorado and California and Jefferson County, Colo., law enforcement agencies. It was prosecuted by the Colorado Attorney General's office in Denver.
FORMER KANSAS LAB OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO FRAUD, FALSEHOODS
Terian Koester, former owner of QWAL Laboratories in Pittsburgh, Kan., pleaded guilty on July 3 to mail fraud and making false statements in violation of the Clean Water Act CWA). In his plea, the defendant admitted that his laboratory deliberately falsified tests performed on water samples performed for clients who had CWA discharge permits. Falsifying water sample tests results can cause the discharge of waters with higher than permitted levels of pollutants, making surface waters unsuitable for drinking, recreation and the support of aquatic life and wildlife. When sentenced, Koester faces a maximum sentence of up to seven years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $260,000. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with assistance from EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City.
SEATTLE PROPRIETOR, FUGITIVE IN MEXICO, PLEADS GUILTY
Sherman Smith, owner of Seawall Construction, a Seattle area marine construction company, pleaded guilty to failure to appear for a judicial proceeding on June 14. Smith was surrendered to the U.S. Marshall's Service in Tucson, Ariz., on April 1 by the Mexican government. Smith had forfeited $20,000 bail when he failed to appear for trial in federal court in Washington state in May 1996 and had been living in Mexico. Smith had been previously charged with violating the Clean Water Act, but those charges have been dropped in return for his guilty plea for failure to appear. The charges arose from an oil spill that occurred when the Tug Omar sank in Puget Sound. Witnesses alleged that Smith had not properly maintained the tug and knew it was taking on water. Previously, in 1989, Smith had been convicted of pumping oily bilge water into Puget Sound. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Washington State Environmental Crimes Task Force. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.
FORMER NEW JERSEY TESTING FIRM MANAGER PLEADS GUILTY
Alan Hodgson, former Northeast Regional Operations Manager for SGS Control Services Inc., in Edison, N.J., pleaded guilty on June 18 to failing to file required reports on reformulated gasoline. The reports are required to be provided to EPA under the Clean Air Act. Hodgson failed to file the reports in order to hide the fact that he had provided false analyses to SGS customers. These analyses falsely indicated that the customers' gasoline met Clean Air Act standards. Meeting these standards helps reduce air pollutants that can cause a variety of respiratory diseases. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
TENNESSEE PHYSICIAN SENTENCED FOR CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATION
Clary P. Foote, a Harriman, Tenn., physician who owned a power plant there, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on June 7 for violating the Clean Water Act. Foote will spend 12 months in home confinement, perform 300 hours of community service, pay a $10,000 fine, publish an apology in the Knoxville and Roan County, Tenn., newspapers and pay $74,956.64 to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Valley Authority Police and Southern Environment Enforcement Training Inc., a company that will provide environmental training within the community. The offense occurred in February 1999 shortly after the defendant purchased the power plant at the former Harriman Power and Paper Mill. The site had a storage tank that contained approximately 500,000 gallons of a mixture of pulp waste known as "black liquor" and water. The defendant and an employee went to the tank during a rainstorm on Feb. 14, 1999, and opened a valve which allowed the black liquor contents of the tank to flow into a pond that emptied into the Emory River. The contents had a high chemical oxygen demand level which had a negative impact on vegetation and aquatic life in the river. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and members of the East Tennessee Environmental Crimes Task Force. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Greenville, Tenn.
OWNER OF FORMER OREGON SHIP REPAIR COMPANY GIVEN JAIL TERM
Guy O. Hoy, III, the owner of Hoy's Marine, a Newport, Ore., ship repair facility that ceased doing business in May 2000, was sentenced on June 4 to four months in prison for violating the Clean Water Act. Hoy also was ordered to subsequently serve four months of home detention, perform 40 hours of environmental community service and pay $70,000 restitution and $27,000 in state fines. Hoy's company renovated and painted ships by raising them out of the Yaquina River and pressure washing and sand blasting the hulls. Twice previously fined and repeatedly warned since 1996 by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to cease the practice, Hoy continued to allow sandblast grit and antifoulant marine paint to be discharged into the Yaquina River. Sandblasting residue and antifoulant marine paint can contain heavy metals, which can harm fish and aquatic life. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI, the Oregon State Police and the Oregon DEQ. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Eugene, Ore.
SHIPS' CAPTAIN, CHIEF ENGINEERS PLEAD GUILTY TO ALASKA VIOLATIONS
Three defendants pleaded guilty to violations resulting from illegal activities that stemmed from the dumping of oil and sludge into ocean waters in and around Alaska. Doo Hyun Kim, captain of the Motor Vessel Khana, pleaded guilty on June 12 to obstruction of justice; In Ho Kim, chief engineer of the Khana, pleaded guilty on May 31 to making false records and witness tampering; and Je Yong Lee, chief engineer on the Motor Vessel Soho, pleaded guilty on May 28 to making false records, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. The Khana and Soho were registered in Panama and were used for the shipment of frozen seafood to Asia. In February, the U.S. Coast Guard detained the vessels in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to inspect them for possible violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. During Coast Guard on-board inspections, inspectors found oil laden bypass hoses believed to be used to circumvent the ships' oil water separators. Oil water separators are required ship pollution control devices that prevent oil discharges, which can harm fish and other aquatic life. The defendants interfered with the investigation by telling crew members to lie to investigators about the bypass hoses and by maintaining false oil record books. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
ALASKA MAN PLEADS TO CONCEALING ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME
Gary Hitchings, an officer and director of Technic Services Inc., an Alaska asbestos abatement contracting company, pleaded guilty on May 31 to misprison (illegal concealment) of a felony by failing to report a violation of the Clean Water Act. The violation involved the removal of asbestos from the Alaska Pulp Corp. in Sitka, Alaska. Hitchings was responsible for assuring that all asbestos containing material at the facility was properly removed in accordance with environmental rules and regulations. During the removal, the defendant learned that slushy waste containing asbestos abatement waste was allowed to enter a drain system at the facility and flow directly into Silver Bay in violation of the Clean Water Act. However, Hitchings concealed the violation. Discharging contaminated slurry into surface waters can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of the EPA Office of Air Quality, EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and the Alaska Department of Labor. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage.
STOP SALE ORDER ISSUED TO MISSOURI DISINFECTANT COMPANY
On June 7, EPA ordered Wexford Labs, of Kirkwood, Mo., to immediately stop selling and distributing three ineffective antimicrobial disinfectant products. The products are: Wex-Cide Concentrated Germicidal Detergent (EPA Reg. No. 34810-8); Phenex-Cel Concentrated Germicidal Detergent (EPA Reg. No. 34810-16) and Ready-To-Use Wex-Cide Germicidal Detergent (EPA Reg. No. 34810-21). In addition, EPA is requesting that Wexford voluntarily recall all quantities of these products on sale since July 2001 from its distributors and their customers. Selling or distributing ineffective pesticides is prohibited under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which authorizes EPA to issue orders stopping the sale of ineffective products. EPA has an efficacy testing program for tuberculocides and hospital disinfectant products to ensure that products marketed in commerce to protect public health work as claimed. Disinfectant products play an important role in infection control. Health care providers, consumers and others rely on EPA's registration of these products as evidence that they work as claimed on the label. Because Wexford's products are ineffective tuberculocidal disinfectants, they may pose a potential public health threat, if used.
FLORIDA MAN, VIRGINIA REAL ESTATE FIRM PLEAD GUILTY
David Stephens Klein of Heathrow, Fla., and the Davold Real Estate Partnership of Staunton, Va., pleaded guilty on May 28 to violating the Clean Air Act in Staunton. Klein pleaded guilty to illegally disposing of asbestos-containing material from the Masonic Building and Davold pleaded guilty to illegally removing asbestos at the Towne Center. Klein, a medical doctor who previously ran clinics in the Shenandoah Valley, operated buildings in Staunton owned by the Davold Real Estate Partnership, a property management company. Workers untrained in the proper removal of asbestos were used to remove asbestos from pipes and boilers and were not provided with property safety equipment. The asbestos was dumped at the Augusta County landfill and various other sites in and around Staunton. Failure to use appropriate safety equipment and properly remove and dispose of asbestos can lead to the inhalation of asbestos fibers which is a cause of lung cancer, a lung disease known as "asbestosis", and mesothelioma which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities. When sentenced, Klein faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine and Davold a fine of up to $500,000. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Staunton Police Department with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and EPA Region III. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Charlottesville and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
SHIP'S CHIEF ENGINEER PLEADS GUILTY TO OIL POLLUTION IN ALASKA WATERS
Je Yong Lee, Chief Engineer of the motor vessel Soho (M/V Soho) pleaded guilty on May 28 to keeping and presenting a false oil record book, obstructing a federal investigation and telling crew members to lie to a federal grand jury in Anchorage, Alaska. The M/V Soho is a Panamanian flagged freighter that is owned by a Korean company named Oswego Limited. It carries seafood to Asia. Lee was the vessel's chief engineer in charge of engine room operations. During a Coast Guard inspection in February, inspectors found hose which they suspected was used to bypass the ship's oil water separator, a pollution control device that limits the amount of oil a ship discharges into the ocean. Lee admitted in his plea that he knowingly recorded false information in the ship's oil record book, thus failing to indicate that the bypass hose was used to directly discharge oil-contaminated bilge water and oily sludge into the ocean during the ship's passage from Japan to Alaska. In addition, Lee admitted that he instructed engine room crew members to lie to a federal grand jury about the use of the bypass hose. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Lee faces a maximum sentence of up to 33-months in prison. The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
TWO MEN SENTENCED IN LAS VEGAS FOR ILLEGAL WASTE DISCHARGE
Gene Moran and John Gold, operators of Silver State Plating in Las Vegas, Nev., were sentenced on May 28 for various federal violations arising from the illegal discharge of electroplating wastes containing excessive levels of zinc, chromium, copper, lead and nickel into sewers operated by the Clark County Sanitation District. Moran, who was previously convicted of illegally discharging plating wastes into Las Vegas sewers, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Gold, who pleaded guilty to illegally discharging wastes into sewers, intentionally discharging similar wastes, conspiring to illegally dispose of plating wastes and making false statements to conceal illegal discharges, was also sentenced to 12 months in prison. Discharging electroplating wastes into sewers can cause sewage treatment equipment to fail and can lead to untreated sewage being discharged to surface waters, creating a risk to humans who use the waters for recreation and to aquatic and animal life. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center, the Clark County Sanitation District and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Las Vegas and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
If you provide environmental, safety, transportation, or related services or products; such as training, consulting, management, etc., EHSO would like to hear from you. We are looking for quality professionals to offer their services as affiliates. Please contact us via