The allegations arise out of wastewater discharges from Acuity Specialty Products, Inc. Within the facility are different plants, each of which produces a different type of detergent or cleaning product, including industrial and domestic liquids, aerosols, powders and acids.
In its plea Friday, Acuity admitted that from at least September 1998 until November 2002, while inspectors from the City of Atlanta Watershed Department were at the Acuity facility conducting sampling, Acuity employees altered the wastewater flow to render the sampling inaccurate, with the intention of misleading the City of Atlanta.
As a result of the investigation, Daniel Schaffer, Acuity's former director of environmental compliance, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, in February 2006. He is awaiting sentencing.
Acuity admitted in its plea that this improper practice had been in place before 1998, when it had first hired Schaffer. Acuity admitted that on numerous occasions, it had failed to report accurate wastewater flow data, phosphorus concentrations and pH results in reports that were submitted to the City of Atlanta.
Acuity also admitted that on two occasions, it had failed to report discharges to the City of Atlanta, including a 10,000 gallon phosphorus discharge in 2000, and an acid spill in March 2002.
'Employees of Acuity showed a flagrant disregard for the environmental laws of the United States,' said Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
'Today's sentence is the harshest sentence ever imposed on a company in the Northern District of Georgia for a violation of environmental laws,' said Yates. 'This sentence signals to the business community that it must comply with laws that protect our environment and that a failure to do so will result in prosecution and severe penalties.'