Cast Iron Manufacturer Pays $4 Million to Resolve 400+ Violations in 14 States
McWane Inc., a national cast iron pipe manufacturer headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., has agreed to pay $4 million to resolve more than 400 violations of federal and state environmental laws, the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday. The settlement, filed in federal court July 14 in Birmingham, Ala., covers 28 of McWane's manufacturing facilities in 14 states and also requires the company to perform seven environmental projects valued at $9.1 million.
The $4 million civil penalty will be divided among the United States, Alabama, and Iowa. The environmental projects McWane will perform address storm water contamination at numerous locations; reduce mercury emissions in Provo, Utah, and Tyler, Texas; reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions in Bedford, Ind., and Anniston, Ala.; and enhance air quality in Coshocton, Ohio. Additionally, according to DOJ, McWane has already undertaken corrective measures to resolve the violations, at a cost of more than $7.6 million.
The settlement resolves civil violations during the past decade of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, as alleged by the United States, Alabama, and Iowa in the complaint.
McWane manufactures cast iron pipes, valves, fittings, fire hydrants, propane and compressed air tanks, and other similar products. As a result of its manufacturing processes, McWane emits pollutants, such as particulate matter, VOCs, and mercury at various facilities. DOJ noted that mercury is a known neurotoxin and exposure to it has been linked to adverse human health effects, particularly neurological disorders. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Particulate matter can aggravate lung diseases, cause asthma attacks, and may increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. The environmental projects included in the settlement will result in reduction of more than four million pounds of pollutants annually. The corrective measures and supplemental environmental projects included in the settlement will benefit communities in North Birmingham and Anniston with environmental justice concerns, DOJ said.
As part of the settlement, the United States also required McWane to develop and implement a corporate-wide environmental management system (EMS) to promote environmental compliance, achieve pollution prevention, and enhance overall environmental performance. The EMS was implemented prior to Wednesday's filing and is now complete. The agreement requires McWane now to conduct an audit of the EMS to evaluate the adequacy of the system. In addition, McWane has modified its corporate-wide stormwater pollution prevention plan and will develop or upgrade facility-specific plans as part of the agreement.
At its iron foundry in Coshocton, Ohio, McWane will operate a cupola furnace, which is a particulate emissions source, in accordance with its newly-revised Clean Air Act Title V permit. The consent decree also establishes operating conditions and emission limits for the cupola furnace, and is separately enforceable by the EPA.
In the past, multiple McWane divisions and facilities have been the subject of criminal investigations that have resulted in five federal prosecutions, DOJ noted. As a result, the company has paid more than $25 million in criminal fines and penalties and spent approximately $5 million on environmental projects. Company executives have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 70 months and the company and certain executives have been placed on probation.
"This is a comprehensive settlement that brings McWane into full environmental compliance at 28 facilities nationwide, and imposes a penalty on the company for its civil environmental violations at those facilities over the past decade," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "As a result of this agreement, McWane has completely re-engineered its environmental management systems to ensure that it remains in compliance, and has committed over $9 million to environmental projects that will remove significant amounts of pollutants from the environment and benefit the surrounding communities."
"In addition to meeting its environmental obligations and taking corrective measures, McWane will go beyond compliance and take action to protect communities that are at the greatest risk for air and water pollution," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The additional environmental projects included in the settlement will protect children, pregnant mothers, local residents, and workers from harmful pollution and are an example of securing public health and environmental benefits in addition to those achieved by compliance with our nation’s environmental laws."
The proposed settlement agreement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Birmingham Division, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on DOJ's website at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.