Manufacturer To Pay $4.6 Million In Clean Water Case

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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United States v. Conopco Inc. d.b.a. Unilever Home and Personal Care USA: Health and beauty product maker Unilever has agreed to pay $4.5 million in criminal penalties after pleading guilty to two felony environmental violations at its former manufacturing plant in Clinton.

Unilever Home and Personal Care USA also reached an agreement with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in connection with a civil enforcement proceeding stemming from the allegations involving the illegal draining of wastewater. The company will pay $100,000 to settle the civil case.

Unilever products are sold in 190 countries and include household names like Q-tips, Ben & Jerry's, Hellman's, Lipton and Ragu.

On Dec. 5, Unilever pleaded guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut say that the charges stem from Unilever's December 2008 illegal discharge of industrial wastewater at the former Clinton plant and the company's failure to report the discharge in a timely manner.

As part of its plea agreement, Unilever agreed to pay a $1 million fine and intends to contribute $3.5 million to state and local environmental programs. The payment includes $2.5 million to fund the Connecticut Resiliency and Climate Adaption Center, which will conduct research, outreach and education projects related to the impact of rising sea levels.

In addition, $500,000 will go towards the construction of a fishway at the Chapman Mill Pond in Clinton and $500,000 to the Town of Clinton for other environmentally beneficial projects.

"The people of our state suffered greatly as a result of Hurricane Irene and Storm Sandy and unfortunately the outlook ahead is for even more extreme weather events as a result of changes in the climate being predicted by experts," Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement after the agreements were reached between the state and Unilever.

"It is the mission of the Institute for Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation to help us mitigate the risks posed by the changing climate," Malloy continued. "We will look to the Institute to provide the people and communities along our coast and inland floodplains with the research and information needed to better predict their vulnerability and to develop and undertake steps toward greater resiliency."

Unilever's Clinton manufacturing facility produced a variety of health and beauty products for sale in the United States. The wastewater produced by the plant was regulated by a permit that prohibited the company from bypassing any portion of its wastewater treatment system unless the bypass was unanticipated, unavoidable and necessary to prevent loss of life, personal injury or severe property damage.

The permit further required that Unilever notify authorities within two hours of becoming aware of any bypass of the treatment system. The company also had to submit a written report within five days setting forth the cause of the problem, the duration of the event, and corrective actions taken or planned to prevent future occurrences.

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