Moore Printed Circuits (MPC) of San Diego, Calif., and Ghanshyambhai Patel of Chicago, Ill., one of MPC's owners, pleaded guilty on Feb. 18 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego.
MPC pleaded to illegal discharges in violation of the Clean Water Act and Patel pleaded to conspiracy. Paramanand Sheth, president of MPC, previously pleaded guilty in the same case.
In 2003, pollution control equipment at MPC was broken and the owners decided that it would be too expensive to fix the problem. Instead, workers at the plant tampered with monitoring equipment and manipulated the flow of wastewater when inspectors visited to make it appear as if the facility was complying with its NPDES discharge permit.
This prevented the inspectors from knowing that the company was discharging more than its allowed limit of copper into public sewers. San Diego's Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant is not designed to eliminate copper from wastewater. Therefore, copper arriving at the plant is discharged into the Pacific Ocean where it can damage fish and other aquatic life.
MPC has agreed to pay a $75,000 fine, the other defendants' sentences are yet to be determined.
The case was investigated by the San Diego Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of the EPA Water Program and EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center.
It is being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego.