Monday, March 23, 2015

Four executives pleaded guilty to Clean Water Act violations at Elk River; now face prison terms

Coverage of executives pleading guilty to federal charges from WCHS TV.
As a site operator, if you have any question about your personal risk associated with operating storage tanks containing petroleum or other dangerous chemicals, the 2014 Elk River, West Virginia chemical spill should provide some clarity.

Last week, two former owners of Freedom Industries, the company's environmental consultant and tank farm manager all pleaded guilty in federal court to Clean Water Act violations by causing an unlawful discharge of a coal-cleaning chemical into the Elk River.

Each face up to a year in prison and fines of $25,000 per day per violation, up to $100,000 for the incident, which contaminated the drinking water supply for more than 300,000 residents.

The company itself, another owner, and the President will all face charges in a related trial later this year.

The FBI says the executives knew about critical flaws at the facility but did nothing about them. Federal investigators pointed to holes in a corroded tank floor and roof as the likely cause of the leak.

An FBI affidavit says Freedom knew about critical flaws at its Charleston, W.V. plant but never dealt with them. Federal investigators have said holes in a corroded tank's floor and roof likely helped cause the spill.

According to ABC News, prosecutors said that the company "put an entire population needlessly at risk," and that more than 400 nearby residents were treated at local hospitals for exposure to the chemical.

Brian Derge, Tanknology's Chief Operating Officer of the Inspection Services Division, said that situations like this can absolutely be mitigated with proper precautions. SPCC plans must be in place for ASTs, then periodic physical inspections, monitoring and testing programs help ensure nothing on the scale of the Elk River incident can occur.

"We help a lot of companies manage their tank compliance programs with regular inspection services so that any issues are caught early and can be resolved without causing an incident," Derge said.

For information about Tanknology’s tank inspection, monitoring and testing programs, you can visit us on the web, call us at 1-800-964-1250, or email us.
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