Crestwood Chemical Firm, Former President and Manager Sentenced for Illegal Dumping

Feb. 27, 2009
Following a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criminal investigation, James E. Spain, the former president of Crown Chemical Inc. in Crestwood, Ill., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Chicago to pay a criminal fine of $30,000 and spend 12 months in home confinement. Spain plead guilty to illegally dumping chemical wastes into the regional sewer system. He also was ordered to spend 3 years on probation.

Crown Chemical Inc., which also pleaded guilty to charges in the case, was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $100,000, required to spend 1 year on probation and make a public apology. The company's manager, Catalino Uy, was sentenced today to pay a fine of $5,000 and spend 2 years on probation.

Spain was charged in 2006 with the illegal discharges of acidic and caustic wastewater, lying to federal investigators and conspiracy. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division Midwestern office.

As a part of his guilty plea, Spain admitted that he showed employees how to discharge the untreated wastewater to the local sewers, and that on occasion, he also directed employees to use a hose to try to dilute the waste being discharged.

Spain acknowledged that the illegal discharges extended for 16 years, from 1985 until 2001, when special agents from EPA served a criminal search warrant at the Crown facility. Spain also admitted that, during the execution of the warrant, he lied to federal investigators. In addition, Spain admitted that he telephoned several employees before they arrived for work and told them to falsely tell investigators that they treated the wastewater before they discharged it.

“People who cheat on environmental laws to save money need to know that we will investigate them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law," said EPA Special Agent in Charge Randall K. Ashe said. Ashe also complimented the excellent teamwork on the case between special agents and attorneys for EPA and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Crown Chemical Inc. manufactures industrial and commercial home cleaning products. According to the indictment in the case, wastewater resulting from cleaning out tanks at the facility routinely was drained to the city sewer system, despite the fact that the discharges violated standards for their acid content and at times for their caustic content as well.

The sewer system in Crestwood is a regional system that connects to a treatment plant owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Federal and local laws prohibit the discharges of acidic waste to local sewer systems.

Attorneys for Crown Chemical Inc. informed the court that, in the period since EPA executed the search warrant the facility has installed the proper treatment equipment.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Chapman.

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