Kennedy Valve And Former Plant Engineer Plead Guilty To Environmental
Albany, NY (May 10, 2007) - New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today announced guilty pleas from an Elmira foundry and its former plant engineer for hazardous waste violations. As part of the pleas, the foundry's parent company will pay $1.5 million to fund a Chemung County-based program to reduce childhood lead exposure.
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said, "Illegally dumping toxic waste is absolutely reprehensible. Lead has been proven to be hazardous - especially to our children - and today's guilty plea and penalties should serve as warnings to those who feel they can skirt environmental laws to dispose of dangerous waste. My office will deal severely with all those who fail to comply with the law."
Kennedy Valve (KV), an Elmira-based division of McWane Inc., pleaded guilty today before Chemung County Court Judge James T. Hayden to two counts of Unlawful Dealing in Hazardous Wastes in the First Degree (a class E felony) under the Environmental Conservation Law. As part of the plea, Kennedy Valve was fined the maximum amount allowed by law, $300,000. Former KV plant engineer Ronald Wagner, 61, of Hornby, pleaded guilty to one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing (a misdemeanor) for his role in disposing of lead-contaminated wastes. Wagner, who no longer works at Kennedy Valve, was sentenced to a conditional discharge.
McWane, as part of the plea deal, agreed to pay $1.5 million to implement a program to reduce childhood lead exposure in Chemung County and clean up lead-contaminated housing in the county. McWane will not seek any tax benefits for funding the lead removal program and it will not refer to the payment as a "charitable contribution."
Between 2001 and 2004, KV dumped waste in the Chemung County landfill, including melt-dust waste, a product generated by the burning of scrap metal in large furnaces. On behalf of KV, Wagner applied for permits to dispose of KV's waste at the landfill, claiming that the waste was non-hazardous. The landfill granted the permits and KV transported tons of what it claimed was non-hazardous waste to the facility.
However, between August 2002 and August 2004, multiple labs informed KV and Wagner, on ten separate occasions, that KV's melt-dust waste was indeed hazardous and exceeded acceptable limits for lead. Nevertheless, KV continued to ship melt-dust waste to the landfill, ultimately shipping a total of over two tons of lead-contaminated waste. Neither the landfill nor the waste transporter, Upstate Machinery, was permitted to handle hazardous waste.
DEC Commissioner Grannis said, "DEC firmly believes in prosecuting those that try to circumvent the stringent laws New York has in place to protect our communities and the environment from harmful exposure to lead or other contaminants. We are pleased that Kennedy Valve has been held accountable for their actions and that among the details of this plea, will be contributing to important public awareness and lead abatement efforts that will help Southern Tier children grow strong and healthy."
Elmira Mayor John S. Tonello said, "I am very pleased with the efforts that Kennedy Valve has made in the years since the violations were discovered. We very much appreciate the efforts of the Attorney General's office and we look forward to having this money to reinvest into this community to address environmental concerns in the City of Elmira and Chemung County."
Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli said, "We are pleased that the Attorney General's office, in conjunction with the other government regulatory agencies, has come to a settlement with Kennedy Valve (McWane Inc.) and this issue has come to a resolution. The proceeds from this settlement will go a long way to enhance the current programming provided by the County Health Department to reduce childhood lead exposure within Chemung County."
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Paul F. McCarthy of the Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. The investigation was conducted by DEC Investigators Richard D. Thomas and Lt. Michael VanDurme, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Special Agent Darin J. Mugleston, and Senior Investigator Michael Hagler of Attorney General Cuomo's Investigations Bureau under the supervision of Supervising Investigator James Domres.
Attorney General Cuomo has made environmental protection a significant priority of his administration. Since taking office in January, Cuomo:
- Announced his intent to sue ExxonMobil and other parties to remediate damage done to Greenpoint Brooklyn and the Newtown Creek from one of the largest oil spills in history (17 million gallons) and the discharge of a large variety of other toxic pollutants into the creek and surrounding areas
- Obtained $1,575,000 from 29 private and public entities that disposed of waste in the North Sea Landfill (a State Superfund site in Suffolk County)
- Filed suit against a waste disposal company owner who dumped construction waste into a protected stream in Columbia County
Led a multi-state legal challenge to the federal government for adopting a rule that refused to regulate mercury and other pollutants from existing portland cement plants, which resulted in the withdrawal of the rule and a commitment to issue a new one