WASHINGTON, D.C. - Cast-iron pipe manufacturer McWane Inc. (McWane) and company executives James Delk, Michael Devine, and Charles “Barry” Robison were sentenced today in federal court for environmental crimes connected with the operation of McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama. Judge Robert Propst sentenced McWane to pay a fine of $5 million and serve a period of probation for five years. McWane, Inc. is also ordered to perform a community service project valued at $2.7 million. Judge Propst ordered McWane executive James Delk to serve probation for three years, including six months of home detention and a fine of $90,000; Mike Devine received two years of probation, including three months of home detention and a fine of $35,000; and Charles Robinson received two years of probation and a fine of $2,500. Additionally, Robinson will serve 150 hours of community service work.
After a six week trial McWane; James Delk, a former Vice President and General Manager; and Mike Devine, a former plant manager at and current employee of McWane in New Jersey, were found guilty in June of this year of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging industrial process wastewater into Avondale Creek in Birmingham through storm drains, in violation of their permit. McWane and Delk were also convicted of 18 counts of discharging pollutants-including hydraulic oil and sludge containing zinc and lead-into Avondale Creek and eventually Village Creek, which runs into Bayview Lake, between May 1999 and January 2001. Devine was additionally convicted of seven counts of discharging pollutants into Avondale Creek between May 1999 and January 2000. In a related count, McWane and Charles Robison-its Vice President for Environmental Affairs-were convicted of making a false statement to the EPA by misrepresenting that various locations relating to wastewater management were acceptable when this was not an accurate description of those locations. Further, many of the purported inspections had not been conducted.
“The evidence at trial depicted years of illegal discharges and concerted efforts by company officials to hide those discharges from state and federal regulators,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to enforce the nation’s environmental laws and to prosecute to the fullest extent those who seek to break them.” One additional individual, Donald Harbin, pleaded guilty on to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to violate environmental laws connected with the operation of McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company. Harbin oversaw maintenance activities at the company during a period when it was allegedly discharging processed waste water into Avondale Creek in Birmingham in violation of a federal permit. Harbin is scheduled to be sentenced on December 19, 2005.
“Discharging of untreated or improperly-treated industrial wastewater and pollutants are primary contributors to the impairment of water quality in our nation,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These convictions clearly demonstrate that EPA is vigorously enforcing federal regulations to help reduce this problem.”
“This jury found a conspiracy between McWane, Inc. and its highest positioned employees at the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company to violate the Clean Water Act and to make false statements to the EPA,” said U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. “It is critical that we enforce criminal environmental laws against corporate wrongdoers and their employees, so that Birmingham residents are protected from the harm caused by a company putting pipe and profits above the public’s welfare.”
“The FBI is fully committed to investigating environmental matters that pose a significant risk to public safety. We are very pleased with the outcome of this case, the interagency cooperation involved, and the strong message sent that environmental crimes will not be tolerated, ” said Carmen S. Adams, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case represents the third conviction of a McWane company in the past year. The Department of Justice has taken the following actions against McWane nationwide:
• In November 2005, Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Company-a division of McWane, Inc. located in Provo, Utah-and two executives were charged with committing conspiracy, Clean Air Act violations, and submitting false statements to the government. The six-count indictment charged McWane, as well as Charles Matlock-former Vice President of McWane, Inc. and General Manager of Pacific States-and Charles “Barry” Robison-Vice President of Environmental Affairs for McWane, Inc.- with conspiracy to violate federal clean air regulations as well as the submission of false documents required by the EPA. Charges in an indictment are accusations. Each of the defendants is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in federal court.
• In September 2005, Union Foundry Company, a division of McWane, Inc. and an iron foundry located in Anniston, Alabama, was sentenced to pay $4.25 million in criminal fines and community service, and serve probation for three years. The McWane Division pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging illegal treatment of hazardous waste and worker safety violations that resulted in the death of an employee, Reginald Elston. • In March 2005, Tyler Pipe Company, a division of McWane located in Tyler, Texas, pleaded guilty to submitting a false statement and violating the Clean Air Act. The federal district court ordered Tyler Pipe to pay a criminal fine of $4.5 million and serve probation for five years.
• In December 2003 in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Atlantic States-a division of McWane of Birmingham, Alabama-and several managers were charged with conspiracy to violate federal clean air and water regulations and laws governing workplace safety, as well as obstruction of criminal and regulatory investigations by EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This case is currently in the midst of a four month jury trial in Trenton, New Jersey.
The case in Birmingham was investigated by Special Agents of the EPA and the FBI. Senior Trial Attorney Christopher Costantini and Trial Attorney Kevin Cassidy of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey prosecuted the case.