Who's sorry now? Company whose employees dumped toxic waste in Savannah


Credit: Lois Norder

Credit: Lois Norder

Courts all over the country have been ordering criminal defendants to apologize for their misdeeds.

In Michigan, a judge ordered a state official to apologize for her role in the Flint water crisis.  In Pennsylvania, a court ordered a former judge to write letters of apology for her crimes and send them to every judge in the state. In Louisiana, a college student accused of shooting a cat was ordered to write an essay apologizing for his conduct and read it in court. In Florida, a woman who slapped a cop, who then punched her, must write a letter of apology to have charges dropped.

Now, a Louisiana company is apologizing after two employees of its Garden City facility dumped "significant amounts" of toxic waste in the ground near the Savannah neighborhood of Carver Heights. The men in 2015 transported drums and containers with naphthalene -- which can cause liver and neurological damage, cataracts and anemia -- dumped them to save time and money, then fabricated invoices to hide what they had done, prosecutors said.

The company itself, Boasso American Corp., was criminally charged in the case, accused by the EPA at one point of knowingly allowing hazardous wastes to be illegally dumped. A judge Thursday accepted the company's plea agreement. Among other terms, the plea deal the company negotiated stipulates that Boasso will pay a $500,000 fine, establish and enforce an environmental compliance plan, pay restitution including cleanup costs -- and publish a half-page public apology in a national newspaper and in two Georgia papers: the Savannah Morning News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That ad ran in today's AJC edition.

"We recently accepted responsibility for the actions of certain former employees..." says the newspaper ad in part. It goes on to say that the company immediately cooperated with oversight agencies when it was notified of the dumping and hired experts to remove the wastes. That remediation work was completed in 2015. "We apologize to the affected community," the ad says.

The employees involved received federal prison sentences for their crime. Ray Mitchell, 52, of Pooler, Georgia, was sentenced to 28 months, and Maurice Miller, 40 of Savannah was sentenced to 20 months.

Court-ordered apologies are controversial. Some judges say they aren't meaningful if they must be ordered. Read more on the topic: http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/justice-through-apologies-remorse-reform-and-punishment/ 

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