States Attorney's Office District of Connecticut
|January 4, 2010||
TERRYVILLE MANUFACTURER ADMITS FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATION
Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that PHOENIX PRODUCTS COMPANY of Terryville, Connecticut, pleaded guilty today before Chief United States District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to one count of knowingly discharging a pollutant into the Town of Plymouth sewer system, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
According to court documents and statements made in court, PHOENIX PRODUCTS COMPANY, which provides formulation, blending and packaging services for a variety of personal care and swimming pool products, had a contract with a customer to blend and package a drain opener product. During the course of fulfilling the terms of this contract, PHOENIX PRODUCTS generated at its 97 Napco Drive manufacturing facility six 250 gallon totes (some partially full) filled with off-specification product. While the company had an extensive recycling program, this off-specification product had no feasible commercial use, except for reintroduction of approximately five gallons into each new batch of product. The contents of the totes have been described as a black colored liquid, and subsequent sampling and analyses revealed that the liquid had a pH of less than 1, which means that it was highly acidic. A label on the totes read, “Old [drain opener product]. Out of spec.”
Pursuant to a statewide pretreatment program, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Water Act, PHOENIX PRODUCTS was prohibited from discharging any pollutants into the Plymouth sewer system except in accordance with a permit and in compliance with specific conditions and numeric limitations set forth in the regulations and statutes administered by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP). PHOENIX PRODUCTS never applied for, nor received, a discharge permit from the CT DEP to discharge pollutants into the Plymouth sewer system.
From approximately September 11 to October 1, 2008, employees of PHOENIX PRODUCTS were instructed to dump several gallons of the off-specification drain opener product from the totes down certain drains at the 97 Napco Drive facility. On dates closer to October 1, 2008, employees were instructed to dispose of higher volumes of the drain opener product by hooking up a hose from the totes to a shower drain.
On September 11, 2008, the Plymouth Water Pollution Control Authority identified a pH of approximately 2.0 in its influent. Over subsequent days, it monitored its influent, which measured a consistently low pH every day until October 1, 2008, when the acidic wastewater was traced along the sewer line to a manhole located adjacent to 97 Napco Drive. On that date, inspectors from the Plymouth Water Pollution Control Authority and the CT DEP observed a black-colored wastewater entering the manhole that had a pH of approximately .26, which is extremely acidic. The inspectors went to the PHOENIX PRODUCTS manufacturing facility and observed the 250 gallon totes filled to varying degrees with a similar black liquid. They also saw black staining in the maintenance sink in the men’s restroom.
When PHOENIX PRODUCTS is sentenced, the company faces a maximum penalty of five years of probation and a $500,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Although the Court is not bound by any sentencing recommendation, this plea agreement has been reached in the context of global discussions with PHOENIX PRODUCTS and the State of Connecticut regarding the company’s criminal and civil liability. PHOENIX PRODUCTS has agreed to pay a total of $250,000 in criminal fines, civil penalties, and special environmental projects, including a $50,000 federal criminal fine, a $25,000 civil penalty to the State of Connecticut, and a payment of $75,000 into the DEP Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) Account. PHOENIX PRODUCTS also must make an additional SEP payment of up to $100,000 if the business is sold.
In addition, PHOENIX PRODUCTS has reimbursed the Town of Plymouth for the costs incurred to neutralize the acidic conditions.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working with the EPA, the Connecticut DEP and the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office to protect the environment by prosecuting companies and employees who cut corners and knowingly violate environmental permits,” U.S. Attorney Dannehy stated.
U.S. Attorney Dannehy noted that the investigation is ongoing.
This matter is being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Christopher W. Schmeisser and Special Assistant United States Attorney Andrew E. Lauterback.
U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
Department of Justice
Project Safe Neighborhoods