Pittsburgh-Area Copper-Processing Company Pleads Guilty to Felony Violations of the Clean Water Act
Is Ordered to Pay $550,000 Criminal Fine
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A copper-processing company headquartered in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts under the Clean Water Act, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
United States District Court Judge William S. Stickman, IV, accepted the guilty plea of Libertas Copper, LLC d/b/a Hussey Copper ("Hussey") to one count each of submitting a false discharge monitoring report, discharging a quantity of oil that may be harmful to the environment, and failing to make immediate, required notification of such discharge of oil. Judge Stickman also proceeded directly to sentencing and ordered Hussey to pay a $550,000 fine and serve a three-year term of probation.
During today’s hearing, Hussey was represented by its Chief Executive Officer, who made admissions on behalf of the company. The Court was advised that Hussey operated a manufacturing facility on the Ohio River that produced flat-rolled copper products for the electrical distribution, industrial, and residential construction markets. Hussey also managed wastewater generated as a result of its copper processing via a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The WWTP discharged wastewater via designated internal and external outfalls, including outfalls on the Ohio River. Hussey further admitted that at all relevant times, it operated pursuant to the terms of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), as authorized by the federal Clean Water Act.
As part of its guilty plea, Hussey admitted that its NPDES permit set specific discharge limits for copper and oil, among other parameters. Hussey’s NPDES permit also required the company to submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) on a monthly basis to PADEP, documenting the quantity and quality of the discharges authorized by its NPDES permit during the preceding month. Each DMR was required to be signed and certified as to its accuracy by a responsible corporate officer on behalf of Hussey. Hussey further acknowledged that between at least June 2012 and continuing through at least May 2017, the company knowingly submitted numerous falsified DMRs to PADEP, indicating that various discharges from its outfalls were within applicable permit limits, when in truth and in fact Hussey’s own internal sampling data showed that such discharges had exceeded the relevant limits. Hussey also admitted reporting false values in monthly DMR submissions to PADEP as to at least 140 parameters subject to discharge limits, including a substantial number of copper discharges. The false parameter values reported to PADEP concealed permit exceedances on at least 21 monthly DMRs.
Separate from the alleged DMR falsifications, Hussey also admitted engaging in a years-long pattern of discharging oil in a quantity sufficient to generate oil sheens on the Ohio River, in violation of the Clean Water Act. Between at least January 2012 and continuing until at least 2018, Hussey admitted that it documented in internal logs hundreds of observed oil sheens at two of the company’s outfalls on the Ohio River. Notwithstanding these documented observations, Hussey admitted that it did not report any of the observed oil sheens to EPA or PADEP, as required by the Clean Water Act. Further, after PADEP issued a notice of violation to Hussey in June 2015, following a citizen complaint of an oil sheen at the company’s outfall, the company admitted that a responsible corporate officer responded to the state agency that Hussey would report any future oil sheens. The next year, in July 2016, a responsible corporate officer communicated to PADEP that there had been no observed oil sheens at Hussey’s outfalls for the prior thirteen months, when, in fact, as Hussey admitted, the company’s internal logs reflected dozens of sheen observations during that time. Moreover, as part of its guilty plea, Hussey admitted that it did not make an affirmative, required report to regulatory authorities of the presence of oil sheens at its outfalls until June 2018—and even then its reporting was incomplete. To that end, Hussey’s oil-sheen reporting in June 2018 referenced sheens observed on three specific days, despite the fact that Hussey’s own internal logs documented observed sheens on fifteen additional days during the relevant month, including multiple sheens during the same week.
As a condition off Hussey’s probation, the company is also required to enter into a civil Consent Decree within 180 days of judgment in this case in connection with a pending parallel civil investigation, pursuant to which Hussey will implement a comprehensive environmental compliance program at its Leetsdale facility. Upon entry of such Consent Decree, Hussey’s probation in the criminal matter will terminate.
Assistant United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan prosecuted this case on behalf of the government, with assistance from Martin Harrell, Associate Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation of Hussey.