FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
CENTRAL INDUSTRIES, INC. PLEADS GUILTY TO 26 FELONY
VIOLATIONS IN MISSISSIPPI WATER POLLUTION CASE Company Ordered to Pay $14 Million in Criminal Fines and Restitution
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Mississippi poultry rendering company today pleaded guilty to 26 felony charges and admitted that it conspired to dump thousands of gallons of slaughterhouse waste into a local stream.
As a result of its guilty plea, Central Industries, Inc., was ordered by the U.S. District Court in Jackson to pay a $13 million criminal fine, and $1 million in restitution to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for future environmental enforcement. The company pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act and 25 charges of specific Clean Water Act violations.
Central's rendering plant in Forest, Miss., produced hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater daily that contained pollutants including ammonia nitrogen, fecal coliform, grease and other rotting material. According to the indictment, between 1990 and 1995, the plant would accept significantly more blood, feathers and slaughterhouse waste than Central had the capacity to render or process without violating its wastewater discharge permit. As a result, Central dumped illegal amounts of pollution into Shockaloo Creek, a tributary of the Pearl River.
The indictment also charged that Central employees from time to time would bypass the rendering plant and dump truckloads of untreated chicken blood directly into a wastewater lagoon behind the facility.
As part of the conspiracy, the defendants ignored warnings from regulators that the Central plant was operating beyond its capacity and that its wastewater treatment equipment was inadequate to process the tons of waste the plant received each week. Despite these conditions, Central increased the amount of slaughterhouse waste it accepted over time, without upgrading its equipment.
Central's dumping reached an apex in the spring of 1995; the indictment charged that the rendering plant committed more than 1,000 violations of its wastewater permit between April and June of that year. During that period, the excessive amounts of pollutants discharged by Central into Shockaloo Creek turned the waterway brown and caused it to emit a putrid odor.
Four former executives or directors of Central Industries previously pleaded guilty to federal environmental crimes. Former Chief Operating Officer Terry Miller, who managed daily operations at the Central plant, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a Clean Water Act felony for discharging polluted wastewater in April, 1995. Last June, John M. Rogers, Jr., the former vice president of Central and vice chairman of its board of directors, pleaded guilty to criminal negligence for allowing the discharge of polluted water in May of 1995.
On October 13, 2000, Tammy Etheridge, former board chairman and chief executive officer of Central, pleaded guilty to three criminal negligence charges. And on October 26, Johnny McCarty, the former vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Central Industries, pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal negligence for allowing illegal pollution during 1995.
"This tough punishment for corporate water pollution should serve as a crystal-clear wake-up call to any corporate executive in Mississippi who is privileged to have the power to decide how much their corporation will spend and how much care the corporation will take to obey our country's important environmental laws," said Brad Pigott, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
"Neither the Clinton Administration nor the American people will tolerate illegal activity that put the public and the environment at risk," said Steve Herman, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's sentencing sends a loud message that those who commit environmental crimes will be caught, prosecuted and pay a very high price."