Seven-Up/RC Bottling Reaches $1 Million Settlement With Federal Government

In the largest Clean Water Act case ever taken against a soft drink bottler, the Seven-Up/RC Bottling Co. of Southern California has agreed to pay more than $1 million in criminal and civil fines for industrial stormwater and wastewater violations at its soft drink bottling plants in Vernon and Buena Park, Calif., officials announced on Nov. 10.

Under the terms of this global settlement, which concludes three years of investigation into both Seven-Up facilities by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles and EPA, the Seven-Up/RC Bottling Co. of Southern California will pay a $600,000 criminal penalty and a $428,250 civil penalty.

"This settlement reinforces EPA's commitment to protect public health by holding Seven-Up accountable for their illegal discharges into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers," said Wayne Nastri, administrator of EPA's Pacific Southwest Region. "We will continue to protect our waters and human health and prosecute those who violate our environmental laws."

Polluted runoff is the leading cause of water pollution in the Los Angeles area, according to EPA.

The Regional Water Quality Control Boards in Los Angeles and Santa Ana, the Orange County Sanitation District, the city of Vernon, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works assisted the federal government in its investigation.

A copy of the consent decree lodged on Nov. 10 is available on the U.S. Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

In 2002 and 2003, EPA investigated Seven-Up/RC Bottling Co.'s bottling plant in Vernon and discovered that the facility had been discharging pollutants directly into the Los Angeles River. The pollutants -- grease, petroleum by-products and acid drink product "rejects" -- created a stain on the bank of the Los Angeles River.

In 2003, EPA discovered that Seven-Up/RC Bottling Co.'s plant in Buena Park discharged acidic industrial wastewater into the Orange County Sanitation District sewer system. Acidic wastewater can corrode sewer pipes and damage the integrity of wastewater treatment plants.

Further investigations revealed that both plants failed to follow key Clean Water Act stormwater discharge permit requirements, resulting in prolonged discharges of polluted runoff to the San Gabriel River and the Los Angeles River. Both waterways are already contaminated with oil, nutrients, metals, and other pollutants commonly used by industrial facilities.

And in 2004, EPA discovered that the Buena Park plant discharged industrial wastewater through a makeshift rooftop pipe into a tributary of the San Gabriel River.

For more information on the EPA's regional stormwater program, go to http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/npdes/stormwater.html.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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