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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Webster Plating Company; General Manager Sentenced for Violating the Clean Water Act


         ROCHESTER, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Maracle Industrial Finishing, located at 39 Commercial Street, Webster N.Y., and General Manager Jon Maltese, 60, of Canandaigua, N.Y., were sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge David G. Larimer for violating the Clean Water Act. The corporation was sentenced to three years probation and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, while General Manager Jon Maltese was also placed on probation for three years, ordered to pay a $4,000 fine, and ordered to complete 80 hours of community service.

            In addition, Thomas Maracle, President of Maracle Finishing, was ordered to establish a company-wide environmental compliance program, which includes training employees about the Clean Water Act. Maracle and his successors will be responsible for ensuring and certifying that the company remains in compliance with that plan.

       Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig R. Gestring, who handled the case, stated that Maracle Industrial Finishing worked with phosphorus and chromium products used in the metal and powder production industry. The company operates out of an industrial building in Webster which has an area with dipping tanks and a painting area. The dipping tanks are filled with various chemical solutions and parts are dipped into each one in sequence. The parts are then rinsed with other cleaning agents over the tanks. The tanks sit atop a drain system which empties into a holding pit where the material is stored for later disposal. The pit contains a sump pump which is connected directly to the outside sewer line, and this sewer connects directly to the Webster Publically Owned Treatment Works (POTW), which in turn connects to Lake Ontario, a navigable waterway of the United States.

            Maracle operated under a Zero Discharge Permit that was issued by the Town of Webster beginning in January 2010. Under the permit, Maracle Finishing was not allowed to discharge any process wastewater, only sanitary waste (i.e. - water coming from sinks, toilets, and showers). Maracle Finishing and John Maltese violated this Zero Discharge Permit by repeatedly discharging process wastewater into the sewer system from the facility.

            Concerning the investigation, water samples taken from Maracle Finishing in late 2011 tested positive for a wide array of process waste-water, including volatile and semi-volatile organics. Officials obtained samples taken from a sewer directly outside Maracle which connected the building to the POTW. These showed that not only was Maracle discharging process waste-water, which violated their Zero Discharge Permit, but also that some of the waste-water itself posed an explosive hazard due to its low flashpoint. Lab analysis of the waste-water showed a 40.3 degree Celsius flashpoint in violation of POTW limits. The Village of Webster POTW doesn't take any waste-water discharges below a 60 degree Celsius flashpoint because the lower flashpoint has an increased risk of explosion or fire at lower temperatures and is more dangerous.

            Webster officials and investigators with the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation went to Maracle on several occasions to check for discharges at the sewer outside the company. A manhole directly outside Maracle permitted easy inspection of water leaving the facility and entering the POTW system. At virtually every visit, officials were able to see process waste-water leaving Maracle's building and flowing into the POTW in violation of the Zero Discharge Permit. They confronted General Manager John Maltese, who always denied discharging anything other than bathroom water. However, during several of these visits they saw a sump pump running in plain sight which was discharging process waste-water from the holding pit area. Workers interviewed during the investigation confirmed that Maltese would order them to turn the discharge pumps on to drain the chemicals in the holding pit.

            The EPA executed a federal search warrant in March 2012 and conducted extensive testing and analysis. Dye testing was performed to confirm that the material from the holding pit was the same material as that being discharged into the POTW line outside. Samples from the dipping tanks, holding pit, and paint area were also obtained and tested.

            "As the judge in this case noted, these crimes could have been avoided had the defendant not attempted to cut corners," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "This office will continue to utilize the federal environmental laws to protect the community and prevent individuals or companies from putting profit ahead of people."

            The sentencings are the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Vernesa Jones-Allen, Investigators of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, BECI, under the direction of Lieutenant Richard Thomas, and the Village of Webster Department of Public Works, under the direction of Superintendent Jake Swingly.



Updated May 23, 2016