McWane Inc., plant managers plead guilty to Clean Water Act violations at Alabama facility

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 18, 2009 -- McWane Inc., one of the largest cast iron manufacturers in the country, pleaded guilty today in federal district court in Birmingham, Ala., for environmental crimes that occurred at its Birmingham facility...

Dec 18th, 2009

• Company sentenced to pay $4 million criminal fine

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 18, 2009 -- McWane Inc., one of the largest cast iron manufacturers in the country, pleaded guilty today in federal district court in Birmingham, Ala., for environmental crimes that occurred at its Birmingham facility, McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company, the Justice Department announced today.

McWane pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of knowingly violating the Clean Water Act. James Delk, the former general manager and vice president of the Birmingham plant, pleaded guilty to eight counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act. Additionally, former plant manager Michael Devine pleaded guilty to five counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act.

Under the plea agreement, McWane was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $4 million and serve a five-year term of probation. As a condition of probation, McWane must perform a community service project, specifically the Greenwood Environmental project, in accordance with the requirements of a consent agreement between McWane and the Justice Department to be entered in federal district court. James Delk was sentenced to pay an $8,000 criminal fine and serve 36 months of probation. Michael Devine was sentenced to pay a $2,000 criminal fine and serve 24 months probation.

McWane operates iron foundries that manufacture cast iron pipe, fittings, valves, and hydrants in each of the country's major market areas. The manufacturing process involves melting ferrous scrap metal in a water-cooled cupola furnace. Molten metal is centrifugally cast into pipe in water-cooled machines. The cast iron pipe is then annealed, cleaned, tested, cement lined, painted and bundled for shipment.

"The convictions of another division of McWane and its managers are a true example of the Justice Department continuing to vigorously pursue companies and individuals who blatantly disregard laws enacted to protect the environment and communities," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are resolute in our dedication to enforce the nation's environmental laws that protect both human health and our natural resources."

"Our citizens are entitled to have clean water and we will work aggressively to enforce federal criminal laws that protect Alabamians from water pollution" said Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. "This conviction holds McWane and two of its plant managers accountable for criminal conduct, which polluted Alabama waters. McWane has now put in place equipment and procedures designed to prevent this type of waste-water discharge from occurring again. We hope this will be a lesson to other would-be polluters that we are actively investigating instances of pollution and will not hesitate to address criminal violations."

"This is the fifth time that the McWane corporation, a McWane facility, or a company manager has been sentenced for committing environmental crimes," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "McWane's multiple violations of the nation's environmental laws is inexcusable, and McWane needs to take immediate steps to ensure that it fully complies with the law."

Wastewater generated as a result of the manufacturing process contains several contaminants from the foundry, including oil, grease and zinc. Under the Clean Water Act, McWane was subject to a National Discharge Pollutant Elimination System (NDPES) permit that required it to treat its wastewater before discharging it into Avondale Creek, a waterway immediately adjacent to the Birmingham foundry. Avondale Creek flows into Village Creek, a tributary of Black Warrior River. McWane and the plant managers violated the NPDES permit repeatedly over an 18-month period, from 1999 to 2001. The violations caused the discharge of thousands of gallons of wastewater to be released to Avondale Creek during that time period.

The defendants were convicted previously at trial in June 2005, for criminal conduct involving the illegal discharges of wastewater into Avondale Creek. The convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the case was remanded to the district court for trial. The guilty pleas today resolve the case against all three defendants.

The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Alabama. The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. This prosecution is one of several brought by the Justice Department against McWane for environmental and safety crimes occurring at foundries owned by the company throughout the country.

In March 2005, Tyler Pipe, a division of McWane located in Tyler, Texas, pleaded guilty to submitting a false statement and knowingly violating the Clean Air Act. Tyler Pipe agreed to pay a criminal fine of $4.5 million, and to be subject to probation for a period of five years. Tyler Pipe must undertake significant improvements at the facility as a condition of probation. The improvements for the Tyler Pipe facility, estimated to cost as much as $24 million.

In September 2005, the Union Foundry Company, a division of McWane located in Anniston, Ala., pleaded guilty to knowing violations of the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RRCA) and willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that led to the death of an employee. Union Foundry was sentenced to pay a $3.5 million fine and must serve a three-year term of probation, subject to a number of consent decrees issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. In addition, the company was ordered to propose a community service project valued at $750,000 and directed toward environmental remediation in the Anniston area.

In February 2006, McWane, entered guilty pleas for environmental crimes that occurred at its Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Company (Pacific States) foundry located in Springville, Utah. McWane pleaded guilty to two knowing violations of the Clean Air Act. These included rendering inaccurate stack tests which are required under the Clean Air Act to measure the amount of air pollutants are being emitted at the foundry, and submitting false information from those stack tests to the state of Utah. Pacific States was sentenced to pay a fine of $3 million and serve a three-year term of probation. Pacific States executive Charles Matlock was sentenced to one year in prison in connection to his involvement in these crimes.

On April 20, 2009, Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Company, a division of McWane located in Phillipsburg, N.J., was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $8 million and to serve a four-year term of probation subject to oversight by a court-appointed monitor. The sentence was imposed by the court after an eight-month trial from September 2005 to May 2006, where the company and managerial and supervisory personnel were found guilty by a jury for numerous criminal offenses, including conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act; making false statements and obstructing EPA and OSHA; and to defeat the lawful purpose of OSHA and EPA; and, substantive Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act violations. Four foundry managers and supervisors were sentenced to serve prison terms, ranging from six months to 70 months.

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