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Release Date: 2/17/1999
Contact Information: Bonnie J. Smith (215) 814-5543

ROANOKE, Va. - A cold storage business in Roanoke, Va. pled guilty today to violating the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act by discharging ammonia into the Roanoke River, causing a massive fish kill.

  Roanoke Ice and Cold Storage, Inc. (RICS) was charged with knowingly discharging pollutants into a river without a permit and knowingly killing the Roanoke logperch, an endangered species.

On September 5, 1997, local residents observed dead fish along the Roanoke
River near the plant.  Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigated.  They determined that RICS employees had bled off ammonia gas from refrigeration equipment, and then discharged the ammonia-contaminated water from the cooling system into the river.  According to investigators, the discharge killed approximately 2,600 fish, including endangered Roanoke logperch.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the company will pay $25,000 in restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore local habitat for the Roanoke logperch.  The company previously had paid a $10,000 civil penalty to Va. DEQ.

The Clean Water Act protects water quality and requires permits for discharges into rivers and streams.  The company did not have a permit.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennie Waering and EPA attorney Martin Harrell, who served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the case.