WASHINGTON, D.C. – Union Foundry Company, a division of McWane, Inc., a corporation which operates iron foundries at various locations across the country, was sentenced yesterday to $4.25 million in criminal fines and community service after pleading guilty to a two-count information in the Northern District of Alabama, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced. The guilty pleas and sentence resulted from the investigation of worker safety and environmental violations at the Union Foundry facility in Anniston, Alabama. The violations named in the two-count information, which was unsealed last week, related to the operation of the facility from December 1997 to August 2000.
McWane’s Union Foundry division pleaded guilty to count one of the information, admitting to the willful violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulation, and that this willful violation resulted in the death of an employee. More specifically, from March 17, 2000 until August 22, 2000, the corporation allowed its employees to work on a conveyor belt that did not have a safety guard mandated in OSHA’s safety regulations. On August 22, 2000, maintenance employee Reginald Elston became caught in a pulley of the conveyor belt and was crushed to death.
McWane’s Union Foundry division also pleaded guilty to count two of the information, admitting that it knowingly violated the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by allowing employees to illegally treat hazardous waste at its facility without a permit. The manufacturing process utilized by the facility involved melting ferrous scrap metal in a water-cooled cupola furnace. The melting process generated significant amounts of dust, containing lead and cadmium, which were emitted into the air and are considered hazardous waste under the RCRA. The dust was captured in large filtration structures known as “baghouses.” McWane, then allowed its employees to treat the contaminated dust at the Union Foundry facility without a permit.
“This is the second time that a McWane division has pleaded guilty to charges that allege systematic indifference to safety and environmental laws,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Kelly A. Johnson. “This case is especially egregious as it involves the death of an employee. We are committed to ensuring that environmental crimes in the workplace, particularly those that endanger employees, receive harsh punishments that will deter others from such practices.”
McWane’s Union Foundry division was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $3.5 million and serve a period of probation of three years. The Union Foundry facility is currently subject to a number of consent decrees issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Violations of any of these consent decrees or environmental regulations and laws could constitute a violation of probation for the parent company. In addition, McWane’s Union Foundry division was sentenced to pay $750,000 for a community service project approved by the Justice Department and directed towards worker safety or environmental remediation in the Anniston area. If approval is not given by the Department, McWane’s Union Foundry division will be required to forfeit the $750,000 as an additional criminal fine.
“The safety of every single employee should be first in a corporation’s mind, and McWane’s willful violation of OSHA safety regulations resulting in a death must be punished,” said U. S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. “Today’s guilty plea and sentencing holds McWane accountable for the safety of its workers and environmental harm done in Anniston.”
In March 2005, Tyler Pipe Company, a division of McWane, Inc., pleaded guilty to submitting a false statement and violating the Clean Air Act. Tyler Pipe agreed to pay a criminal fine of $4.5 million and is subject to a probation period of five years. As part of its settlement, Tyler Pipe must also undertake significant improvements at the facility as a condition of probation. The improvements for the Tyler Pipe facility are estimated to cost as much as $24 million.
In June 2005, in Birmingham, Alabama, McWane, Inc. and former Vice President and General Manager of the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company James Delk were convicted of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and of violating the Clean Water Act by allowing discharges of industrial process wastewater into Avondale Creek in Birmingham through storm drains in violation of their permit. Charles “Barry” Robison, the Vice President for Environmental Affairs at McWane, Inc., was also convicted of submitting a false statement to the EPA. Sentencing for this case is scheduled for October 25, 2005.
The case with McWane’s.Union Foundry division resolved today was investigated by Special Agents of the EPA, with the assistance of the FBI. Senior Trial Attorney Daniel Dooher, Senior Trial Attorney Christopher Costantini of the Environmental Crimes Section (ECS) of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert O. Posey prosecuted the case.