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W.R. Grace Pleads Guilty To Concealing Chemical Use From EPA

May 31, 1988

BOSTON (AP) _ W.R. Grace & Co., which two years ago paid a reported $8 million for polluting wells in Woburn, pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying about the amount of a chemical it used at a plant there.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro fined the New York-based conglomerate the maximum $10,000 for willfully misleading the Environmental Protection Agency about purchases of the cleaning solvent acetone.

As part of an agreement, the government dropped a second charge that W.R. Grace concealed dumping of hazardous waste in the ground behind the plant in Woburn, where a group of families alleges that chemically tainted water caused six cancer deaths.

″I view this to be intolerable corporate behavior and the kind of behavior we will continue to pursue with the criminal remedies available to us,″ EPA Regional Administrator Michael R. Deland said after the plea.

Deland said the EPA plans to require Grace to clean all contaminants at the Woburn plant under the federal Superfund cleanup act.

In a separate civil suit filed by eight Woburn familes, a federal jury in September 1986 found W.R. Grace liable for polluting two town wells. The case was settled for a reported $8 million before a second trial could be held on whether the contamination caused the six leukemia deaths in the town about 15 miles northwest of Boston.

In a two-count indictment in January 1987, W.R. Grace was accused of lying to the government about chemicals it used at the Cryovac plant near the wells, which were shut in 1979.

The company asserted in a February 1982 letter to the EPA it had bought only one five-gallon drum of acetone in 1978 for the plant. The company said the acetone purchased was the only amount brought to Woburn in 22 years covered by an EPA inquiry.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tobin Harvey told Tauro that from 1973 to 1976, W.R. Grace had bought 65 gallons of acetone and had used the solvent repeatedly in the 1960s and 1970s to clean paint spray guns and circuit boards at Cryovac, a food packaging machine shop.

W.R. Grace attorney Robert Popeo told the judge that no company officials were aware the reports to EPA were inaccurate.

″While the company does not dispute that the statement was inaccurate, it vigorously disputes that it was intentionally so,″ W.R. Grace said in a statement.

Acting U.S. Attorney Robert S. Mueller said the maximum fine for a corporation filing false statements with the government was increased to $500,000 in 1984. Grace was levied the old fine because the crime was committed in 1982.

Eight families filed suit in 1982 charging four parties with causing the hazardous waste contamination of the wells. They are: W.R. Grace, Beatrice Foods Co., the John J. Riley tannery and Unifirst, a uniform supply company.

Unifirst settled for $1 million in October 1985, before the original trial, and W.R. Grace settled halfway through the 1986 proceedings.

U.S. District Court Judge Walter Jay Skinner dismissed the portion of the suit against Beatrice and the tannery and in January denied the families a new trial. They have appealed to the 1st U.S. Circit Court of Appeals.

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