The Seven-Up/RC Bottling Co of Southern California was forced to pay US$600,000 in criminal fines and a further US$428,250 in civil penalties in what has become the largest ever case against a drinks manufacturer under federal Clean Water Act.

Half of the US$600,000 fine will be spent on environmental projects in the region of the two plants guilty of the breaches, in Vernon and Buena Park.

The case followed a three-year investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Grease, petroleum by products and acid waste from the bottling process were all found to have been discharged in large quantities directly into the Los Angeles River at Vernon, staining the river bank below the plant.

At Buena Park industrial waste so acidic it had corroded pipes and damaged wastewater treatment plants had been released into the sewer system.

A makeshift pipe discharging wastewater straight into a tributary of the San Gabriel River was also found at the Buena Park facility.

The company pleaded guilty to all the violations and has agreed to install measures and safeguards leading to more environmentally sound working practices.

As well as the substantial fines, the company is expected to feel the pinch from the loss of federal contracts, as the US Government will not maintain a contract with firms convicted under the Clean Water Act.

Seven-Up is now in discussions with the government as to what it must do to repair its tarnished reputation and once again be entitled to bid for contracts.

By Sam Bond

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