Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
It was a big week for indictments against former Freedom Industries executives and the company itself. Earlier this month, Gary Southern (Freedom’s cheief operating officer) was indicted for criminal fraud – for allegedly lying under oath in bankruptcy court to try to protect his personal assets (at least $7 million) by downplaying his role in the company.
This past week, Southern and other Freedom Industries officials are being charged for the offense that actually created the water crisis — violations of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. These violations are all misdemeanors. According to the Gazette:
“The indictment says the company and the four executives failed to exercise reasonable care, failed to comply with the law, failed to follow their own internal operating procedures and failed to conform to common industry standards for safety and environmental compliance.
The company failed to inspect the tank that leaked, failed to maintain the secondary containment around the tank, failed to adequately train its employees, did not have spill prevention supplies on hand, did not have a spill prevention plan and failed to develop pollution prevention plans as required by its permit, the indictment states.
“Metal tanks don’t simply corrode overnight,” Goodwin said. “Containment walls don’t simply disintegrate in a matter of days. These things take time and those matters have to be dealt with.”
Negligent violations of the Clean Water Act are punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 per day of the violation and up to one year in prison.
Ironically, Southern faces up to 65 years in jail for lying to a bankruptcy court, versus up to 3 years in jail for violating environmental laws.