According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Union Foundry Co. has agreed to plead guilty to a two-count “information” that follows an investigation at the Anniston, AL, foundry. The investigation focused on worker safety and environmental violations occurring between December 1997 and August 2000.

The plea agreement must be approved by a federal district court.

Union Foundry is a division of of McWane Inc. In the first count, it admitted to willful violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety regulation, and that this willful violation resulted in the death of an employee. EPA detailed that from March 17 until August 22, 2000, the McWane allowed workers to work on a conveyor belt that did not have an OSHA-mandated safety guard. A maintenance employee was killed on the job on August 22, 2000, when became caught in a pulley of the conveyor belt.

In the second charge, Union Foundry admitted it knowingly violated the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by allowing employees to illegally treat hazardous waste without a permit. Employees were treating baghouse dust – generated in a water-cooled cupola and containing lead and cadmium – without a permit and allowing the hazardous properties to escape into the air.

The agreement includes a criminal fine for Union Foundry totaling $3.5 million and a three-year probation period. And, the agreement requires Union Foundry to propose a community service project valued at $750,000, which must be pre-approved by the U.S. Justice Dept. EPA indicates the Justice Dept. will seek to have the community service project directed at worker safety or environmental remediation in the Anniston area. Without Justice Dept. approval of the project Union Foundry will pay an additional fine of $750,000.

"The safety of every single employee should be first in a corporation's mind, and McWane's willful violation of OSHA safety regulations resulting in a death must be punished," said U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. "Today's agreement to plead guilty holds McWane accountable for the safety of its workers and environmental harm done in Anniston."