Fujicolor fined for environmental crime

Fujicolor Processing must pay a $200,000 criminal fine for discharging excessive amounts of silver-tainted photo processing waste into a Texas wastewater treatment plant.

The fine came after the company pleaded guilty to negligently violating a requirement of its pre-treatment permit at its photo-processing facility in Terrell, the US Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency has announced.

The company launched an internal investigation, which discovered that between 1999 and 2002 employees were choosing only test results within permit limits, to report to authorities monitoring compliance.

Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement and compliance assurance programme, said: “By cherry-picking samples, Fuji’s employees undermined federal and state permit programs.”

The company found employees would send part of a sample to a laboratory for screening and if it met permit limits submit it to city authorities.

But if not they would keep collecting samples until they found one that did.

The fine handed down in the US District Court in Dallas comes five years after the company was fined $105,725 for exceeding its monthly silver limit and after similar problems were unearthed at facilities in Connecticut and Washington.

Fujicolor Processing disclosed the investigation findings to federal and local government officials.

The EPA opened its investigation in January 2003 and turned it over to the US Department of Justice in March 2005.

Federal prosecutors filed the charge against Fujicolor this May.

The company is understood to have since fired employees responsible for violations and introduced safeguards to prevent further breaches.

It is also understood to have bought equipment to better detect silver levels and put in place a new environmental program.

EPA requires the industry to pre-treat toxic pollutants chemicals in their waste in order to protect sewers and wastewater treatment plants.

Local authorities must regulate industrial facilities by issuing permits, undertaking inspections, sampling wastewater and reviewing monitoring data.

David Gibbs

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