Atlantic States Verdict: Company, Four Officials Found Guilty

After 6 days of deliberations, a jury has concluded that Phillipsburg, N.J.-based Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. and four company officials are guilty of committing egregious violations of workplace safety and environmental laws.

A 34-count indictment handed down in December 2003 includes charges that Atlantic States regularly dumped oil into the Delaware River often under cover of darkness and engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with OSHA to cover up unsafe work conditions, injuries and a fatality.

The jury returned guilty verdicts against Atlantic States which was named in all counts of the indictment and Phillipsburg plant manager John Prisque, maintenance supervisor Jeffrey Maury, finishing superintendent Craig Davidson and former Atlantic States human resources manager Scott Faubert on most of the counts.

Daniel Yadzinski, the former engineering manager at the Phillipsburg plant, was acquitted on three counts.

Atlantic States' parent company Birmingham, Ala-based McWane Inc. has a history of environmental and workplace safety violations. In 2005, federal regulators hit McWane division Union Foundry Co. with $4.25 million in criminal fines after the company pleaded guilty to violating environmental law and to a willful OSHA violation that led to the death of a worker.

"As a multiple offender, McWane has time and again showed a disturbing indifference toward the health and safety of their workers and a blatant disregard for the natural environment we all share," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "[The] conviction shows that the Department of Justice takes seriously its responsibility to enforce the nation's environmental laws. And when companies or individuals break them with such shocking regularity, they will be vigorously prosecuted."

Company Officials Facing Possible Prison Time

When Atlantic States and the four company officials are sentenced on Sept. 7, they will be facing possible prison time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

For the first count of the indictment alone which charges that the company and the four managers engaged in an 8-year conspiracy to pollute the air and the Delaware River, to expose its workers to unsafe conditions and to obstruct federal regulators from investigating its facility each individual faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and the company faces up to a $500,000 fine.

Atlantic States also was convicted on five counts of making materially false statements to OSHA and other state and federal agencies; four counts of obstructing OSHA investigations; 22 counts of violating the Clean Water Act; and one count of violating the Clean Air Act.

In addition to the first count of conspiracy, the individuals were convicted on various charges.

  • Prisque, of Bethlehem, Pa., was found guilty of three counts of obstruction of an OSHA investigation, one count of violating the Clean Water Act and one count of violating the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 3 years, while the Clean Air Act conviction carries a maximum sentence of 5 years. Prisque was found not guilty of obstructing OSHA.
  • Faubert, of Easton, Pa., was found guilty of one count of making false statements to OSHA, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years, and two counts of obstructing an OSHA investigation.
  • Maury, of Tamqua, Pa., was found guilty on one count of making false statements to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety and the FBI, obstruction of an OSHA investigation and seven counts of violating the Clean Water Act.
  • Davidson, of Nazareth, Pa., was found guilty on one count of making false statements to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety and a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection emergency responder and 16 counts of violating the Clean Water Act.

"Atlantic States and these defendants committed heinous crimes against workers and New Jersey's environment," said Christopher Christie, the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey. "We will not be stopped in our efforts to protect New Jersey workers and the land and rivers of our state."

Atlantic States 'Confident of Ultimate Vindication'

Atlantic States promised to appeal the verdict "and continue to defend our company and our employees against the claims made by the government."

"While we are pleased with the results for Mr. Daniel Yadzinski, we are extremely disappointed with the verdicts against the other defendants and the company," the company said in a statement. "While mistakes or errors in judgment may have occurred, Atlantic States and all of its employees are innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. We believe there was insufficient evidence presented to the jury to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This was a case where the sheer number of accusations by the prosecutors trumped the lack of evidence."

Atlantic States is known in the cast-iron pipe industry as a "beyond-compliance environmental leader," according to the company.

"Lost among the publicity surrounding the trial have been the tremendous strides Atlantic States has made with its environmental management, workplace safety and community relations initiatives," Atlantic States Vice President and General Manager Mitchell Kidd said.

For more on Atlantic States and McWane, read "Jury Deliberations Being in Atlantic States Case," "McWane Division Hit with $4.25 Million in Criminal Fines for Worker Death, Environmental Violation" and "McWane, Execs Sentenced for Environmental Crimes."

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