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Concrete Company (Empire Transit Mix, Inc.) Pleads Guilty to Fouling Newtown Creek Half of Penalty to Fund Restoration Work

Release Date: 05/13/2005
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FOR RELEASE: Friday, May 13, 2005

#05053) New York, New York – A concrete manufacturer in Brooklyn, New York admitted to illegally discharging concrete slurry into Newtown Creek, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. The company, Empire Transit Mix, Inc., yesterday in federal court pleaded guilty to violating the Rivers and Harbors Act and agreed to pay a $300,000 fine. Half of this fine will be given to the Hudson Riverkeeper to help in its work to protect New York City's rivers and harbors. EPA's Criminal Investigation Division teamed up with Riverkeeper, FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office to collect evidence in the case.

"This was a team effort. The information that Riverkeeper provided corroborated evidence that EPA collected and their involvement as well as that of the FBI helped ensure a successful outcome," said George Pavlou, Acting EPA Deputy Regional Administrator. "Water is a precious resource and together the federal government and Riverkeeper have stopped this company adding pollution to an already over-stressed creek."

"Riverkeeper commends the EPA for its commitment to bringing environmental lawbreakers on Newtown Creek to justice," said Alex Matthiessen, Executive Director for Hudson Riverkeeper. "This action demonstrates how dedicated government regulators can work with citizen groups to stop polluters and restore our environment."

In May 2001, an EPA inspector was conducting a routine inspection of a nearby facility when he observed a significant discharge of grey-colored liquid from the Empire facility, into Newtown Creek. Following these observations, EPA and the FBI set up surveillance of the facility and subsequently observed numerous discharges. EPA sampled the discharge and found that it had a pH of 12, making it highly caustic and adding to the already serious pollution problems in Newtown Creek. The sampling allowed EPA to determine that the discharges were concrete slurry being discharged through a hole in the retaining wall of the Empire facility.

The Hudson Riverkeeper joined the investigation in 2003 by bringing what it believed to be an illegal discharge pipe to the attention of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division. Riverkeeper and EPA continued to separately compile evidence of the illegal discharges, and conducted a joint investigation in November 2003.

While the details have not yet been worked out, Riverkeeper will use the $150,000 to extend its commitment to revitalize Newtown Creek, one of the nation's dirtiest waterways. The group will focus on preventing pollution, conducting expanded public education and outreach, and helping to lead community visioning for creek restoration. Building on the public-private model developed during this case, the group will also increase its collaborative approach to pollution prevention with EPA, state and local regulators.

The Rivers and Harbors Act prohibits the deposit of refuse into navigable waters. The statute allows the federal government to give one half of a criminal fine to the party that gave the government information leading to a plea or conviction.