Johnson Matthey Inc. Resolves Virtually All Government Claims in Salt Lake City Environmental Case
Johnson Matthey Inc. today announced an agreement with the U.S. government, resolving virtually all government claims of alleged environmental violations at Johnson Matthey’s Salt Lake City gold and silver refining facility.
The case, which centered on claims by the government that Johnson Matthey had violated environmental laws during 2000 to 2002 regarding certain wastewater treatment activities involving selenium released into waste water, was disputed by Johnson Matthey. The wastewater from the facility was subject to a permit and flowed through a sewer system to Central Valley Reclamation Works. Central Valley Reclamation Works authorities steadfastly maintained that it had never exceeded its permit limits, meaning there were no pollution violations.
Johnson Matthey Inc., a nearly 100 year old specialty chemicals company based in Wayne, PA, has operated a gold and silver refining facility in Salt Lake City, Utah since 1982. It is one of only two such refineries remaining in the US today. In 2006, the federal government alleged in a 29 count indictment, that the facility had violated its discharge permit for selenium and environmental laws. The chemical selenium is a naturally occurring trace element found in mined materials that are delivered to Johnson Matthey’s Salt Lake City facility to refine the gold and silver contents.
As part of the refining process for gold and silver, a waste stream of water was produced which contained residual selenium. Johnson Matthey had a permit to discharge wastewater into a sewer which ran to the Central Valley Reclamation Facility. The permit limited the allowable monthly average selenium content in Johnson Matthey’s effluent to 3.47 parts per million. In 2006 Johnson Matthey Inc., challenged the validity of the permit limit for selenium in Utah state court. In November 2007 the court ruled the limit for selenium was void from its inception in the early 1990s, thereby causing the government to largely concede its case. At no time was there any evidence or charge of harm to the environment.
All of the original 29 counts which the government charged the company with will be withdrawn. Johnson Matthey Inc. will, as part of the settlement, admit to a separate single count related to a January 2000 wastewater sampling incident. Under the settlement, Johnson Matthey has agreed to pay a fine and will contribute $750 thousand to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for wildlife habitat acquisition and restoration projects in the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake.
Two former managers of Johnson Matthey Inc.’s Salt Lake City refinery also each admitted to a single count related to wastewater sampling in the early 2000s. Both of them were placed on one year unsupervised probation, ordered to perform 20 hours of community service, and the former general manager was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 while the former plant manager was ordered to pay a fine of $500.
Johnson Matthey, a global leader in advanced technologies, including environmental exhaust emissions control, is firmly committed to protection of the environment. All locations in the company are committed to meeting legal and stringent company requirements.