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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.
It is EHSO's opinion that our society's obsession with money and instant wealth, combined with a generally apathetic public, and politicians more concerned with polls than pollution is leading to an increase in pollution and deliberate polluters. If you suspect a persistent polluter in your area, email us (or click here to use the EPA's report a violator form) for instructions to assist the EPA in catching him! To search a company's compliance history, click here!
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?
In reverse chronological order:
2002 Pollution Cases
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.
Robin Woods 202-564-7841/ [email protected]
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.
THREE NEW YORK MEN PLEAD GUILTY IN ASBESTOS CASE
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.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, 2002
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.|
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