WASHINGTON — KIK (Virginia) LLC pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay a $75,000 criminal fine and $25,000 in community service payments for negligent discharges of bleach to the sanitary sewer system in Salem, Va.
KIK (Virginia) operated a facility in Salem that manufactured bleach and other household products. On Sept. 4, 2003, local authorities discovered elevated concentrations of bleach in the sanitary sewer lines servicing the KIK (Virginia) facility. An investigation revealed that at that time and for a number of years before, under previous owners, employees at the plant washed bleach that had been spilled in the production and bottling process and off-specification bleach into the plant’s floor drains. The floor drains channeled the bleach into the plant’s drainage system, which lead to Salem’s sanitary sewer system, operated by the Western Virginia Water Authority. The plant did not have a permit to discharge bleach to the sewer system and did not monitor its discharges.
The Clean Water Act prohibits discharges into a sewer system of any pollutants that the discharger knows could cause property damage. Bleach is a corrosive chemical that, in sufficient concentration, may damage metal and other materials used in the sewer system and is considered a pollutant under the Clean Water Act.
"Keeping our sewer systems and public treatment works in good condition is a key part of maintaining and improving the quality of our waterways," said Eileen Sobek, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We take seriously our obligation to prosecute those whose conduct risks harm to these important systems."
The $25,000 in community service payments will be divided equally between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Environmental Education Fund for use in projects to improve water quality in the Salem area. In addition to the criminal fine and community service payment, KIK (Virginia) has agreed to serve one year of probation, during which it will continue to develop and implement an environmental management system that it began developing during the investigation. It also will complete an environmental audit conducted by an independent auditor.
"Dumping bleach into the city's sewer system risked causing damage to both its sewage treatment equipment and the environment," said David Dillion, EPA's Special Agent in Charge in Philadelphia. "It is appropriate that, in addition to the fine, the company will be required
to institute a management system so that this never happens again."
The investigation was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and members of the Blue Ridge Environmental Task Force, and was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.