FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
SECOND DEFENDANT PLEADS GUILTY IN CASE CHARGING S. CAROLINA PLANT
WITH VIOLATIONS OF CLEAN WATER ACT
COLUMBIA, SC- A former employee at a Lexington, South Carolina company pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act. George Metts worked as a wastewater operator at Tin Products, Inc., which produces chemicals used for plumbing pipes and fixtures.
Melanie Purvis, the environmental supervisor at the facility, pled guilty in June of this year to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act (CWA). An indictment was returned in May charging the defendants with one CWA conspiracy charge and seven substantive CWA violations. Trial of Tin Products and its vice president James Goldman has been continued until January 3, 2003.
From March 1999 until February 2000, the Tin Products allegedly discharged wastewater to the local publicly owned treatment works (POTW) in violation of its industrial user pretreatment permit. The discharges included wastewater containing organic compounds known as "organotins," which are highly toxic to aquatic life. Discharges in February 2000 caused the POTW to shut down due to excessive toxicity levels, as well as a fish kill in Red Bank Creek. Goldman is further charged with sending a false document to the Lexington County Sewer Commission after the February 2000 discharge in an effort to hide the previous illegal discharges.
According to the indictment, Goldman and Purvis were aware that the wastewater was being discharged through the company’s wastewater pretreatment unit, which Goldman and Purvis allegedly knew was incapable of treating organotins. The indictment further alleges that during this same time period Goldman ordered Tin Products employees to discharge wastewater into a pipe that led directly to the Lexington County Sewer and to the POTW.
The indictment also alleges that in March 2000, after the fish kill and shutdown of the POTW, Goldman directed Purvis to submit a false document to Lexington County Sewer Commission, which stated that written procedures had been in place for preventing the discharging of organotins wastewater from the facility. According to the indictment, Goldman knew the document had been back-dated to January 2000, and no such written procedure had ever been in place at Tin Products.
Metts pleaded to the conspiracy count of the indictment pursuant to a plea agreement that was accepted by Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. of the District of South Carolina in Columbia. As part of the plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss another count against Metts that had charged him with a violation of the Clean Water Act. Metts faces a potential prison sentence of up to five years for the conspiracy count and a criminal fine of $250,000.
The case was investigated by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Office of Criminal Investigation and EPA.
The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina noted that the remaining defendants named in the indictment are presumed innocent and that the indictment in this case is only an accusation.