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McWane Pleads Guilty to Clean Water Act Violations

Dec. 28, 2009
Foundry will pay $4-million fine in order to resolve ongoing case
McWane Inc. agreed to plead guilty to nine felony violations in order to settle a federal criminal case involving Clean Water Act violations at the group’s McWane Cast Iron Pipe plant in Birmingham, AL. The company was sentenced to pay a $4-million fine, to serve a five-year probation, and to fund the construction of a new city park in Birmingham. As detailed by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, wastewater from the Birmingham plant containing several contaminants from the foundry, including oil, grease and zinc, were discharged repeatedly into an adjacent waterway over an 18-month period, from 1999 to 2001. 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 the creek. DOJ said McWane acknowledged that it knowingly violated the Clean Water Act, and its former general manager and vice president of the Birmingham plant, James Delk, pleaded guilty to eight counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act. Also, former plant manager Michael Devine pleaded guilty to five counts of negligently violating the Clean Water Act. Delk must pay an $8,000 criminal fine and serve 36 months of probation. Devine must pay a $2,000 criminal fine and serve 24 months probation. Through its various operating subsidiaries the company is one of the nation’s largest producer of cast-iron pipe. Reportedly, it pleaded guilty in order to resolve the case. The charges had had been brought to trial before in 2005. At that time, McWane was found guilty of 20 felonies and fined $8 million, though that verdict was overturned. A new trial was scheduled, but now will not take place. McWane Inc. subsidiaries have been cited and tried for environmental violations in numerous instances over the past decade, and a Justice Dept. official sought to link the result of this case to previous instances. "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," stated assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Ignacia S. Moreno. "We are resolute in our dedication to enforce the nation's environmental laws that protect both human health and our natural resources."