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Release Date: 3/19/2002
Contact Information: Leo Kay

Maximum penalty under Clean Water Act assessed for bypassing
    SAN FRANCISCO   An Oakland metal finishing company agreed to pay a $385,000 civil penalty today -- the maximum amount allowed under the federal Clean Water Act for illegally diverting metal-contaminated wastewater to nearby city sewers.

     This civil settlement is part of a joint civil and criminal settlement involving E-D Coat and its officers.  The EPA civil action concerns the construction and operation of a system that diverted wastewater containing high levels of cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, lead and zinc from its facility on 715th 4th Street around treatment straight to the sewers.  The facility had installed a bypass valve that enabled the facility to send untreated metal plating waste fluid straight to city sewers by simply turning a switch. The facility, which consists of three buildings between Third and Fourth streets, also had illegal concealed pipes that drained effluent through the bathroomconnections straight to the sewers.

     "E-D Coat's violations represent a blatant end run around the Clean Water Act, and the facility is now paying for its behavior. It's clear that this illegal system was in place for many years," said Wayne Nastri, administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest Office in San Francisco.  "I want to send a clear message to people who think they can evade federal environmental law at the public's expense: We will find you and we will fine you."

     Separately, E-D Coat and its officers were sentenced today in district court.  As part of their criminal  pleas, ED-Coat officials have agreed to remove their illegal bypass valve, remove the concealed sewer connections and "hard plumb" all of their drains to the wastewater treatment system.                                

     Although the facility's new buildings were constructed in the early 1980s, regulators are uncertain how long the illegal bypass valve was in place.

     EPA and East Bay Municipal Utilities District inspectors began looking at E-D Coat after receiving information alleging that the facility was bypassing its wastewater treatment system.  During an inspection of the facility, EPA and EBMUD inspectors discovered the bypass valve that the facility was operating in order to avoid properly treating its metal plating wastewaters.

     Running the wastewater diversion process provided ED-Coat with an unfair business advantage over competitors since the facility did not have to pay the usual disposal costs of metals and other contaminants.  The illegal discharges also could have caused the local sewage treatment plant serving the greater East Bay to fail from receiving such high metal contamination.  Finally, inspectors determined that acidic effluent from the concealed pipes had corroded sewer lines along Fourth Street.

     For information on the criminal pleas, contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at 415/436-7181, pager 888/863-1957.