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McWane, EPA in Landmark Environmental Settlement

July 14, 2010
Foundry group will pay $4-million penalty, carry out projects to address outstanding issues
Ductile iron foundry group McWane Inc. has entered into a “landmark agreement” with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the states of Alabama and Iowa, to resolve past environmental issues at its operations. The agreement follows a framework resolution the company proposed to federal officials in 2004, and according to president Ruffner Page Jr. it resolves past civil compliance issues for McWane. "The proposed consent decree announced today with EPA will include a comprehensive settlement of all outstanding historical civil environmental enforcement matters at 28 of our plants, some of which date back more than 12 years in the past,” Page stated. “This settlement establishes a fresh and positive relationship with EPA that will help us maintain our position as the industry leader in environmental, health and safety performance." McWane will pay a $4-million to resolve over 400 violations of federal and state environmental laws, involving 28 operations in 14 states, and it will carry out seven projects totaling $9.1 million to address environmental issues. The agreement also requires McWane to continue to operate and improve its state-of-the-art environmental management systems. Birmingham, AL-based McWane Inc., which manufacturers castings for water and wastewater systems, has been the target of five federal prosecutions in recent years resulting from numerous criminal investigations. To date it has paid over $25 million in criminal fines and penalties and spent about $5 million on environmental projects. In addition, several former executives of the company have received prison sentences or placed on probation as a result of their activities. In the settlement, McWane agreed to turn over to a third-party mediator the results of past environmental audits conducted at its plants by independent auditors during two separate years. The mediator reviewed the audit results and recommended appropriate resolutions of the issues. Those recommendations, along with issues identified by EPA and participating state environmental agencies, were the foundation for the final settlement. “To our knowledge, we are the first company to offer this innovative procedure, and it demonstrates an extraordinary level of openness and cooperation," according to Page. Page called the settlement is “the beginning of the final chapter” in the resolution of the McWane’s past environmental problems. “With the goal of 100 percent compliance, 100 percent of the time, we dedicated ourselves to go beyond mere compliance with laws and regulations and to become the model for our industry," the president said. "Along the way McWane has spent more than $300 million on environmental and safety capital projects and operating expenses. We installed a state-of-the-art environmental, health and safety management system, added more than one hundred environmental, health and safety professionals and specialists to our existing staff, and undertook hundreds of thousands of hours of safety and environmental training." The environmental projects that McWane agreed to carry out at is plants includes installing systems designed to eliminate mercury from the air emissions on cupola furnaces at Tyler Pipe Co. in Tyler, TX, and Pacific States Case Iron Pipe Company in Provo, UT. These controls are similar to a system installed at McWane's Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. in Phillipsburg, NJ. McWane also will test alternative mercury control systems for efficiency and cost, and share the information with U.S. EPA. In addition, McWane agreed to build the Greenwood Storm Water Management System and Park in Birmingham AL. This will be a natural storm-water collection and treatment system lined with native shrubs and grasses that will filter storm-water from nearby roadways and other areas. It will include a multi-use athletic field, a playground and walking paths. McWane has completed the design and is nearing completion of the permitting process for this project, and expects to break ground later this year.