FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENR
TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 1998 (202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888
LINDEN BEVERAGE AND ITS FORMER PRESIDENT PLEAD GUILTY TO POLLUTING SHENENDOAH TRIBUTARY
Former President Will Make Public Apology in Local Newspaper
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Linden Beverage Company, the maker of a nationally-distributed drink called "Alpenglow," today pleaded guilty to covering up its pollution of a Shenendoah River tributary by intentionally submitting a falsified pollution monitoring report to state authorities. The pollution is similar to what is normally found inside a wastewater treatment plant or cesspool.
Benjamin Rice Lacy III, the company's founder and former president also pleaded guilty today to criminal negligence for his role in, and responsibility for, the company's illegal actions. The company and Lacy both pleaded guilty to criminal Clean Water Act violations in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Linden Beverage will pay a $22,500 fine and publish an admission of guilt and apology in a local newspaper. Lacy will pay a $2,500 fine, serve on year probation, and make a public apology for negligently allowing his plant to pollute the Shenendoah tributary known as Manassas Run.
"This case shows that criminals who pollute our nation's waters will be punished," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "It stands as a reminder that no one is above the law."
"As stewards of the environment, citizen and government alike have a duty to preserve and protect the bounty nature bestows upon us, and this is especially true for those of us who are blessed to enjoy the natural treasures of Virginia," said U.S. Attorney Robert P. Crouch, Jr.
The case against Lacy and Linden Beverage arose in late 1993 when inspectors from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) discovered that the company had submitted pollution monitoring reports that understated the pollution concentrations in the wastewater Linden Beverage was discharging from its bottling plant and adjacent convenience store, public restrooms and gift shop. DEQ inspectors found a brownish liquid spewing from the plant, and a stream of sludge stretching several hundred feet downstream from the company's wastewater discharge pipe.
In monthly discharge monitoring reports Linden Beverage submitted and Lacy certified were true, the company claimed that it was only discharging materials within limits set forth in its Clean Water Act permit. As DEQ inspectors investigated further, they discovered test reports at laboratories hired by Lacy that showed pollution concentration levels in Linden Beverage's wastewater up to 100 times higher that what was reported to the state, and much higher than what was allowed under its permit.
In 1995, Linden Beverage and Lacy were convicted after a four-day trial of polluting Manassas Run and making false statements. The convictions were overturned last December by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, which found that the trial judge erred by not notifying the defense prior to closing arguments that he had deleted one word from a jury instruction about how character evidence presented by Lacy in his defense should be evaluated. The appellate court's decision would have required a re-trial, but with today's guilty pleas, both Lacy and Linden Beverage have agreed to penalties that are virtually identical to those imposed by Judge Samuel G. Wilson following the 1995 trial.
In exchange for Lacy's plea to a misdemeanor criminal negligence charge, the government agreed to drop the pending felony charges. Linden Beverage meanwhile pleaded guilty to one of the remaining felony false statement counts in exchange for the government dropping the remaining charges.