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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Davis Wire Corporation of Irwindale, Calif. pleaded guilty to one count of negligent discharge of acidic pollutants into a publically owned treatment works, following an October 26 court decision in which Davis Wire was sentenced to pay $1.5 million in restitution to the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD) for damage done to its sewer system, and pay a $25,000 criminal fine.
Investigators determined that Davis Wire, a manufacturer of galvanized wire, illegally discharged wastewater with acidic levels from its plant in Irwindale on a routine basis. A team of inspectors found that the Davis Wire discharges had, over time, impaired sewer lines to such an extent that the entire trunk line must be re-lined at a cost of more than $1 million.
“Davis Wire has an extensive history of noncompliance since at least 2004, including repeated discharges of highly acidic wastewater,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Their illegal discharges put the surrounding community at risk by damaging the sewer pipes, potentially impacting public health and the environment.”
The plea and sentence caps a joint investigation and prosecution effort by EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, FBI, LACSD, Los Angeles County Public Works, Los Angeles County Fire Department, California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
“All companies must ensure their compliance with federal environmental regulations or face the consequences, as demonstrated by the sentencing of Davis Wire for a combined $1,525,000 million fine and restitution,” said Nick Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Criminal Enforcement for EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.
The case opened in February 2008, when a LACSD employee detected acid wastewater (with a pH level of approximately 3.0) while working in the southern portion of the Irwindale Trunk Line. The LACSD traced the source of the discharge to the Davis Wire plant at 5555 Irwindale Avenue. Davis Wire’s industrial wastewater discharge permit with the Los Angeles County Sanitation District does not allow a discharge with a pH level below 6.0.
Davis Wire uses sulfuric acid in the manufacturing process, and is required to neutralize the acid with a wastewater treatment system before sending it to the public sewer. However, throughout the months of February, March, April and May 2008, inspectors recorded acidic discharges between pH levels of 4.0 and 1.0. A total of 14 illegal discharges were recorded during this period. The investigation revealed that Davis Wire’s wastewater treatment system was in need of upgrades for years.