LOS ANGELES, June 17, 2004 – LAWFUEL – A Los Angeles County company that made PVC has agreed to plead guilty to a series of federal felony charges and to pay more than $4 million in civil and criminal penalties and restitution for discharging pollutants from its Saugus manufacturing facility, as well as lying to environmental regulators about its employees’ over-exposure to toxic chemicals.
The Keysor-Century Corporation had been the subject of intense investigations since 2000. The EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division discovered that the company knowingly released toxic wastewater into the Santa Clara River, and emitted cancer-causing air pollutants at high levels, while falsifying emission reports to state and federal agencies. The company also illegally stored and handled hazardous waste, and maintained its plant in a way that posed a threat of release of hazardous substances into the environment.
The company, which ceased operations late last year, has agreed to plead guilty and enter into a civil settlement for violating the federal Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company will also plead guilty to mail fraud and conspiring to defraud the United States. The civil settlement contains additional counts for violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
In conjunction with the criminal case, Keysor-Century settled civil violations with multiple agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Justice, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
“Keysor-Century continuously and intentionally misused and mismanaged vinyl chloride, an extremely hazardous substance used in the manufacture of PVC,” said Wayne Nastri, the regional administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “Today’s action demonstrates how local, state and federal environmental agencies work together to achieve truly significant environmental results.”
“The actions of Keysor-Century endangered the health of its neighbors and its employees,” said United States Attorney Debra W. Yang. “My office will continue to prosecute criminals, including corporations, who pollute our air and water, and endanger public health.”
“Today’s message is clear and direct,” said Francine Diamond, Chair of the Regional Water Board. “Environmental agencies are working aggressively and cooperatively to protect our air, water and soil. Those who pollute the environment will be found and held accountable.”
“The South Coast Air Quality Management District actively and aggressively participated in the investigation and enforcement of air pollution violations against Keysor-Century,” said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD’s executive officer. “This shows that any Southland facility willfully violating air pollution and other environmental regulations will suffer severe consequences.”
Yesterday, the United States Attorney’s Office filed the criminal charges and a related plea agreement along with a motion seeking the judge’s approval and entry of the civil consent decree. Both the civil and criminal settlements must be reviewed and approved by the U.S. District Court before they are final. Keysor-Century is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to enter guilty pleas next month.
Keysor-Century filed for bankruptcy early last year and is currently undergoing liquidation. Any payment of penalties and restitution will occur through the company’s bankruptcy plan. As part of the settlement, Keysor-Century agreed to never again manufacture polyvinyl chloride, and must place an advertisement in the local paper describing and apologizing for the criminal violations.
Vinyl chloride is a colorless, flammable gas and a component of PVC manufacturing that the EPA has classified as a known human carcinogen. Risks associated with vinyl chloride are primarily to workers who may be exposed by breathing the chemical during processing.
The criminal case was investigated by a task force comprised of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the South Coast Air Quality Management District; the California Department of Toxic Substances Control; the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board; the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works; the Los Angeles County Sanitation District; the City of Santa Clarita; and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Health Hazardous Materials Division.
“The combined efforts of these various agencies led to this successful result and sends a clear message that violators of our environmental laws will be aggressively investigated, prosecuted, and forced to clean up the contamination caused by their unlawful acts,” said EPA-CID Special Agent-in-Charge Jorge Urquijo.