KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Russell Stover Candies has agreed to pay $585,000 to settle alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act at its Iola plant, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
The EPA conducted an audit in June 2008 and found the Kansas City, Mo.-based candy maker was discharging acidic wastewater to a government-owned sewage treatment plant.
But Russell Stover didn’t fix the problem until the EPA issued a compliance order in July 2009, the agency said in a news release. One step the company has taken is pretreating its wastewater.
EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said Russell Stover had been discharging acidic wastewater for years, causing deterioration of sewer lines and manholes in Iola.
“This settlement sends a clear message,” Brooks said in a written statement. “Companies that use publicly owned treatment works to treat their wastewater must follow the law.”
The company didn’t immediately comment. The consent decree requires Russell Stover to perform compliance monitoring for a period of two years and submit a plan if the monitoring shows noncompliance.
Iola city administrator Carl Slaugh said the community spent $3.5 million upgrading its sewer plant because it was being overloaded by wastewater from the Russell Stover facility. The city also made repairs to 17 manholes that had corroded because of the acidity of the wastewater.
To help with the costs, the candy manufacturer is paying Iola $5,601 a month over a 20-year period – a total of more than $1.3 million. Russell Stover also pays a surcharge each month on its wastewater bill to the city.
“We worked through all this,” Slaugh said. “The last problem was fixed in 2009. I think things are working fine now.”
THURSDAY’S announcement coincided with a meeting involving Slaugh, Mayor Bill Shirley, City Attorney Chuck Apt and Water Plant Superintendent Toby Ross with EPA officials earlier that day.
“Until recently, we weren’t even aware EPA was pursuing a penalty against Russell Stover,” Slaugh said.
The city was told in February it faced fines of up to $44,000 for failing to investigate or take appropriate acitons related to Russell Stover’s noncompliance in 2008.
The city’s penalty was reduced to $20,000 after the city agreed to implement a number of as-yet undetermined supplemental environmental projects, Slaugh said. The fine could be reduced another $8,000 if other projects can be agreed to between the city and EPA.
(Register reporter Richard Luken contributed to this report.)