LAWFUEL – Law, legal, attorney, environment law news A Riverside food and beverage processor, as well as the company’s vice president, were charged today with unlawfully discharging pollutants, in this case acidic wastewater, into the City of Riverside sewer system.
The company, Triple H Food Precessors, Inc., and the executive, Richard Joseph Harris, have agreed to plead guilty to violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
Triple H Food Processors, Inc., which operates on Wilderness Avenue in Riverside, has agreed to plead guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act for knowingly discharging a pollutant into city sewers that ultimately led to the Santa Ana River, which flows through Orange County into the ocean. The company will also plead guilty to knowingly violating a pretreatment program by failing to manually monitor the pH of the wastewater discharged into the sewer system.
Harris, a 48-year-old resident of Riverside, has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act for negligently discharging a pollutant.
According to a criminal information and plea agreements filed today in United States District Court in Santa Ana, Triple H is a food and beverage processing company that generates acidic wastewater (low pH) as part of its business. The company was not allowed to discharge any wastewater with a pH lower than 5.0 into the city sewer. Despite this, employees of Triple H knowingly discharged wastewater with a pH lower than 5.0 on more than one occasion. Harris, as Triple H’s vice president, admitted that he negligently operated Triple H such that employees were knowingly discharging this low pH wastewater. In the court documents, the company also admitted to knowingly failing to manually sample and record pH readings when the automatic meters were inoperative.
Pursuant to the plea agreement with Triple H, the parties agree that the company should be fined $750,000 and placed on three years of probation. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Harris expects to be placed on probation for three years, which will include three months of home detention and the payment of a $50,000 fine. Both the company and Harris have agreed to pay $11,480 of restitution to the City of Riverside. During the period of probation, the defendants will also have to hire an environmental consultant and a new employee to oversee the pretreatment system. The plea agreement also specifies that the company will spend money over the period of probation to upgrade the pretreatment system. The plea agreements call for sentences that the government and the defendants believe are appropriate; however, if the District Judge assigned to the case wants to impose a different sentence the government and each defendant have the right to back out of the plea agreements.
The case was investigated jointly by special agents from the Pasadena office of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division and Inspectors from the Water Quality Control Plant of the City of Riverside Public Works Department.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Richard J. Cutler