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Rulings & Regulations

April 4, 2006
McWane Inc. Units Hit with CAA, OSHA Charges

Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Co. has been fined $3 million for pollution violations leveled against parent company McWane Inc. and two former plant officials last November. They were charged with conspiring to violate the federal Clean Air Act and for falsifying documents.

In addition, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited McWane Cast Iron Pipe for 38 safety and health hazards at the company's foundry in Birmingham, AL, leading to proposed penalties totaling $332,700.

The Pacific States foundry in Provo, UT, produces water and sewer pipes, fire hydrants, and fittings. It operates a cupola furnace which must clear a "compliance stack test" every three years to measure the amount of pollutant PM10 emitted through a stack, according to Clean Air Act requirements. The regulations stipulate that the test be performed under "conditions representative of normal operations," to ensure that test results accurately represent the pollutants being emitted at the plant on a daily basis.

Charles Matlock, now retired and a vice president and general manager of Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe, pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of submitting a document to the state of Utah containing falsified emission test results. He also pled guilty to one count of rendering inaccurate a testing method required by the Clean Air Act. He will be sentenced May 2.

Charges were dismissed against Charles Robison, v.p. of environmental affairs, in exchange for his agreement not to appeal his conviction in a separate case involving McWane.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, McWane Inc., Matlock, and Robison conspired to melt pig iron instead of shredded scrap in order to lower the amount of emissions from the cupola and pass a September 2000 compliance stack test. In 2001 and 2002, McWane submitted false emission inventory documents based on the inaccurate September 2000 compliance stack test.

In a statement, McWane said Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe "remains one of the cleanest and safest iron foundry facilities in the nation. Although Pacific States was prepared to defend the test method at trial, it decided after extensive negotiations that the best interests of its business and the community would be served by an expedient settlement of this lingering matter." The company emphasized that no harm was done to employees, the community, or the environment in this case.

At McWane Cast Iron Pipe in Birmingham, OSHA issued 10 repeat citations for which the penalties total $242,700. OSHA issues repeat citations in instances when an employer has been previously cited for similar violations and those citations have been finalizes by the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The agency alleges violations that include: " ... exposing workers to: silica above permissible levels; 'struck by' injuries from improperly blocked and stacked pipes and from a ladle without safety latches that carried hot molten metal; unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, and falls through unguarded floor openings and platforms."

In the other 28 citations, characterized as "serious" by OSHA, the violations include exposing workers to noise and dust above permissible levels; electrical hazards from damaged equipment; improperly operated forklifts; inadequate lockout-tagout procedures, and an improperly modified front-end loader. "Serious" citations are issued when the inspector alleges "substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazards."

For the "serious" citations, McWane Cast Iron Pipe faces penalties totaling $90,000. It was given 15 days to contest the citations and proposed penalties.

Also noted:The American Foundry Society recently formed the Area Source Working Group with the primary goal of developing industry input on the rulemaking of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create standards for iron and steel metalcasting facilities. The group met on Feb. 1 to discuss the framework for the rule, identify ways to limit the rule's applicability to smaller facilities and suggest potential cost-effective methods for non-major sources to control hazardous air pollutants. All metalcasting facilities, especially smaller firms, are encouraged to join this group. Visit the EPA website for more information.

The U.S. EPA Region 5 recently cited Stroh Die Casting Co. Inc., Milwaukee, for alleged clean-air violations. The agency charges that between January and November 2004, Stroh failed to carry out performance tests on its secondary aluminum furnaces, and that it failed to comply with notification and record-keeping requirements.

U.S. EPA Region 5 also cited Concast Birmingham for alleged clean-air violations at the bronze ingot production plant in Birmingham, OH. Concast violated performance standards for new pollution sources by failing to test on of it electric melting furnaces for opacity (the amount of light obscured by smoke particles) and for operating the furnace without determing that it meets opacity limits.

U.S. Pipe & Foundry Co. in Birmingham, AL, was cited by OSHA for safety violations, resulting in penalties totalling $236,000. Enhanced enforcement inspections target employers who have been cited for the most severe violations, subject to inspections of sites other than the one that prompted the original citation. In 2004, its Bessemer, AL, plant suffered a fatal accident due to a missing safety latch.