Yarn Processing Company Pleads Guilty to Discharging Pollutants

July 8, 2004
Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive, say United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Michael E. Hubbard, special agent in charge of the EPA Region I's Criminal Investigation Division, who announced that Dutton Yarn Co., a yarn processing facility located in Lowell, Mass., pleaded guilty on June 30 to two counts of negligently discharging a pollutant into the Meadowbrook River without a permit.

The actions of the company violate the Clean Water Act. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Dutton Yarn agreed to pay a $300,000 fine and to establish a compliance program designed to address environmental matters.

At the plea hearing, the federal prosecutor told the court that, had the case proceeded to trial, the evidence would have shown that Dutton Yarn, as part of its yarn processing operation, generated process wastewater. The company allegedly discharged the wastewater into an underground pipe that led into the Meadowbrook River. The wastewater discharge contained pollutants in the form of bio-chemical oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand, pollutants that sap oxygen from the water.

The evidence would have shown that Dutton Yarn was negligent in allowing this direct discharge to occur over a period of nearly 3 years because:

  • The company had access to architectural drawings depicting this subterranean pipe at the facility;
  • There were multiple manhole covers in plain sight on the floor of the facility which led to this subterranean pipe;
  • Questions were raised by the city of Lowell concerning discrepancies between the volume of water used by the plant and the amount that was being discharged into the sewer system; and
  • Asteady discharge of wastewater into the Meadowbrook River was discovered in 2002 by Dutton Yarn employees who were walking the perimeter of the facility, but the discharge was not investigated.

Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander set sentencing for Sept. 28.

The management of Dutton Yarn has cooperated fully with the government investigation, providing government agents with full access to the facility. Upon learning of the illegal discharge from agents of the EPA, the company voluntarily ceased yarn processing operations at the facility until the necessary repairs were made to bring the plant into compliance with the law.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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