FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, MAY 5, 2003
TIN PRODUCTS DEFENDANTS SENTENCED FOR CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATIONS; VICE-PRESIDENT RECEIVES 18 MONTHS IN PRISION
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. District Court Judge Cameron Currie today imposed sentences in one of the most significant environmental crimes cases in South Carolina history surrounding the discharge of toxic wastewater that caused fishkill and shut down of a wastewater treatment plant in Lexington County.
Judge Currie sentenced Tin Products Vice President James Goldman to 18 months in prison, 100 hours of community service and a $100 special assessment. Melanie Purvis, who had served as environmental supervisor under Goldman, was sentenced to 5 months in prison, 5 months home detention, a $7,500 fine and $100 special assessment. George Metts, a wastewater operator who served under both Purvis and Goldman, was sentenced to 6 months home detention, 5 years probation, 100 hours community service and $100 special assessment. Judge Currie stayed the sentencing of Tin Products Corporation, a defunct entity.
“Today’s sentences, particularly that of the corporate vice-president, should send a strong message to those in the chemical industry, especially responsible corporate officers. We will hold individuals accountable for criminal acts that endanger the health of our citizens and the environmental health of the nation’s waterways,” said Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division.
“We are pleased with the sentences handed down today. This prosecution sends a strong message that the office of the United States Attorney will prosecute those who violate our environmental laws, and we will seek prison sentences where appropriate. Our environmental enforcement effort will include holding corporate officials personally responsible for environmental offenses committed by their respective businesses when justified,” said J. Strom Thurmond, Jr., United States Attorney for South Carolina.
On January 27, 2003, Goldman entered a plea of guilty for himself and on behalf of the corporation to violating the Clean Water Act. An Indictment had been returned in May, 2002 charging the defendants with conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and six substantive Clean Water Act violations. Melanie Purvis, the corporation’s environmental supervisor, pleaded guilty in June, 2002 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act. George Metts, a wastewater operator at the facility, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act in November, 2002.
Tin Products, Inc. owns a chemical plant located in Lexington, South Carolina, and produced chemicals, known as organotins that are used for plumbing pipes, glass coatings, and fixtures. Goldman pleaded guilty to knowingly discharging and causing Tin Products employees to discharge organotins wastewater to the Two Notch Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) owned by the Lexington County Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission. The discharges occurred from July, 1999 until February, 2000 and were in violation of Tin Products’ industrial user discharge permit. Other organotins discharges occurred from March, 1999 until February, 2000. The organotins contamination eventually passed through the POTW into Red Bank Creek in mid-February, 2000, causing the death of nearly 1000 fish. The POTW was eventually forced to shut down due to the illegal discharges it was receiving from Tin Products.
The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office along with the Department of Justice, Environmental Crimes Section. The investigation was conducted by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Office of Criminal Investigation and the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigative Division.