Atlanta-based manufacturer Acuity Specialty Products, Inc., recently pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Clean Water Act. Per the terms of the plea agreement, U.S. District Judge Marvin H. Shoob imposed a sentence of three years of probation and a fine of $3.8 million.
The allegations arise out of wastewater discharges from the Acuity facility, located in Atlanta. The facility operates as a chemical blending facility that manufactures numerous detergent and cleaning products which are used for industrial and domestic purposes. Within the facility are different plants, each of which produces a different type of detergent or cleaning product, including liquids, aerosols, powders and acids.
In its plea, Acuity admitted that from at least September 1998 until November 2002, while inspectors from the City of Atlanta Watershed Department were at the Acuity facility conducting sampling, employees knowingly altered the wastewater flow in order to render the sampling inaccurate, with the intention of misleading the City of Atlanta. As a result of the investigation, Daniel Schaffer, Acuity's former Director of Environmental Compliance, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, in February 2006.
Acuity admitted in its plea that this improper practice had been in place before 1998, when it had first hired Schaffer. Acuity admitted that on numerous occasions, it had failed to report accurate wastewater flow data, phosphorus concentrations and pH results in reports that were submitted to the City of Atlanta. Acuity also admitted that on two occasions, it had failed to report discharges to the City of Atlanta, including a 10,000 gallon phosphorus discharge in 2000, and an acid spill in March 2002.
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