Mira Mesa circuit-board company, owners indicted
Sep 15, 2004
The owners of a Mira Mesa circuit-board factory knew its wastewater pollution-control equipment wasn't working properly and tried to fool inspectors instead of fixing it, according to a grand jury indictment, says a report in The San Diego Union Tribune.
The report went on to say:
The panel returned the charges in San Diego federal court against Moore Printed Circuits Inc. and its Chicago-based owners, Ghanshyambhai Patel, 61, and Gandaji Chavda, 56, on charges of conspiracy and violations of the Clean Water Act.
If convicted, they face prison and fines starting at $5,000 for every day the company was in violation, prosecutor Melanie Pierson said yesterday.
In June, company President Paramanand "Perry" Sheth agreed to plead guilty to pollution charges and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 17.
Officials say tough regulations are needed to prevent pollution from reaching the ocean because the city's Point Loma sewage plant isn't designed to take out metals such as copper from sewage. The 14-count indictment returned Thursday said Patel told an employee in 2002 that workers should stop activities that added copper to wastewater and increase the flow of fresh water to mask the violations when city inspectors visited the plant.
Chavda knew that an ion exchange unit, a cleaning device that removes metals, needed new parts because he contacted suppliers to get price quotes in April 2002, according to the charges. Four months later, workers tampered with monitoring equipment that inspectors had installed to detect violations, according to the indictment.
As with other companies that make electronic components for computers, Moore Printed Circuits has a permit that allows it to put small amounts of copper in water it dumps into the municipal sewer, officials said. But at least nine times between October 2001 and September 2003, it discharged more copper into the water than allowed by the permit, according to the indictment. The water was more acidic than it should have been on four occasions, according to the charges.
The indictment doesn't state how much copper was discharged or what impact it had on the environment. Michael Scahill, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Wastewater Department, said metals such as copper can't be removed at the city's treatment plants. "The big concern certainly would be commercial fishing and the impact it would have on the ocean environment," Scahill said.
He said city inspectors work with companies to ensure that dangerous pollutants are removed from water used in factories before it enters the wastewater system. The city can shut down production and even seal off sewers if necessary. Pollution becomes criminal when operators know what they're doing is wrong and don't take steps to stop it, said Lisa DeSiderio, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division.