By Roxana Hegeman, AP
WICHITA, Kansas–A Kansas chemical manufacturing company was fined US$1 million Tuesday after admitting it illegally dumped hazardous wastes down a saltwater disposal well.
JACAM Manufacturing, LLC of Sterling, Kansas, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wichita to one count of violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and one count of violating the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, and was immediately sentenced following the plea.
Its president, Jason West, entered the plea on his company’s behalf after striking a deal with prosecutors that spared its shareholders, officers, employees, contractors and others from additional charges. The binding plea agreement, which was accepted by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, imposed the maximum fines for those charges.
West declined to comment after the hearing, saying the company would issue a news release later.
JACAM’s website touts its environmental policy: “Zero spills, zero releases, zero incidents and zero excuses. Leave the Earth better than we found it.”
The company makes and sells specialty chemicals used in the oil and gas production and industrial markets. The waste it generates, due to their volatility and corrosiveness, is characterized by the Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous wastes.
It was charged last month with injecting hazardous chemicals down a saltwater disposal well in Rice County without a permit.
In its plea agreement, the company acknowledged it did not have a permit or other lawful authorization to inject fluid into that well. JACAM admitted it transported 300-gallon totes and 55-gallon drums to the well that contained hazardous chemicals such as acetone and benzene, among others.
The company fully cooperated with the investigation after learning of the EPA’s investigation, according to the plea agreement.
The Associated Press first reported on the investigation into the company last year after search warrants were unsealed following a May raid. Agents seized environmental samples from the well and manufacturing site along with manuals, electronic records and other materials. The raid came after a surveillance operation that began in late 2012 and continued until May 2014.
Court documents filed in support of that warrant recounted a federal investigation initially sparked by information provided by former employees who alleged that the company years earlier had disposed of fluids from its manufacturing operations into an injection well.