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Martinsville Company is Sentenced to $200,000 Fine and Three Years Probation for Illegally Strong Hazardous Wastes

Release Date: 12/07/2007
Contact Information: David Sternberg, 215-814-5548 & John L. Brownlee, U.S. Attorney, 540-857-2974

United States Attorney John L. Brownlee announced today that Southern Finishing, Inc., a manufacturer of wood and metal components for the furniture and cabinet industry based in Stoneville, North Carolina, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Danville, Virginia, to pay a $200,000 fine and serve three years in probation, for illegally storing hazardous waste at its facility in Martinsville, facility, in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Senior Judge Jackson L. Kiser also ordered Southern Finishing to spend at least $250,000 developing and implementing an Environmental Management System, including performing annual audits during probation, to minimize environmental impacts and improve compliance with federal, state and local environmental requirements.

“We will forcefully prosecute anyone who knowingly violates environmental laws and regulations created to ensure the proper and safe handling of hazardous waste,” said U.S. Attorney Brownlee.

The illegal storage of hazardous waste poses a risk to both the public and the environment,” said David M. Dillon, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division Office in Philadelphia. “In addition to the fine, the company will be required to improve its performance to avoid future violations.”

Southern Finishing had previously pled guilty to an Information charging it with a felony RCRA violation. According to this Information, from January 2002 to April 2004, Southern Finishing accumulated a large amount of 55-gallon drums containing hazardous waste consisting of waste paint, solvents, and finishes, without having a permit to do so. The amount of stored hazardous waste grew even more after the company received a June 2003 shipment of metal-coating material that contained hazardous air pollutants and later learned that the federal Clean Air Act prohibited the application of such coatings. The hazardous waste was concealed among labeled drums of other waste and product material, so as to evade detection by regulators. More than a hundred and fifty 55-gallon drums of hazardous wastes were found on site. Some of the drums were not labeled, some had hazardous waste labels and accumulation dates more than ninety days old, and some were in poor condition (i.e.,leaking or punctured), according to the charge filed in court.

RCRA regulates the generation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste to ensure its safe management from the time it is generated until its ultimate disposal, that is, "cradle to grave.” Among other things, the statute prohibits the storage of hazardous waste unless an owner or operator of a hazardous waste storage facility obtains a permit pursuant to the implementing regulations. The maximum penalty against a corporate defendant for knowingly violating the relevant RCRA provisions is a fine of up to $50,000.00 per day of violation or $500,000.00, whichever is greater.

The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the City of Roanoke Police Department, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Task Force. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennie L.M. Waering and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lastra of EPA’s Office of Regional Counsel.