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UNITED STATES SUGAR CORPORATION TO PAY $3.75 MILLION FINE; ENDS ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIONS; PLEDGES MAJOR REFORM

 UNITED STATES SUGAR CORPORATION TO PAY $3.75 MILLION FINE;
 ENDS ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIONS; PLEDGES MAJOR REFORM
 CLEWISTON, Fla., Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States Sugar Corporation announced today that it will plead guilty to eight counts of violating the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act involving improper handling of hazardous waste, and has agreed to pay a $3,750,000 fine. The plea agreement followed a two-year investigation by U.S. District Attorney Dexter Lehtinen.
 Nelson Fairbanks, president of U.S. Sugar, said, "No harm was done to the environment, but we made mistakes. We have fixed those mistakes. And I am determined that U.S. Sugar will make no environmental mistakes ever again."
 Fairbanks added, "Our search for environmental damage continues, and if any news organization wants to work with our research department in looking further, I will welcome that. I want to be double and triple sure no harm was done to the environment, and I want the public to be double and triple sure, as well."
 Fairbanks noted, "When the U.S. Attorney began his investigations, I would have bet my home and everything my wife and I own that U.S. Sugar was in total compliance with all environmental laws and regulations. I was wrong."
 The investigation focused on the Bryant Sugar Mill, located near Pahokee, Fla. It is one of the two mills owned and operated by U.S. Sugar. The plea agreement covered any potential violations at the Clewiston Mill, as well.
 The allegations covered mill operations from 1986 through 1989.
 Three broad violations are covered in the eight-count plea:
 First: The company improperly disposed of waste containing
 residues of lead from a test used in its laboratories
 to measure the sweetness of juice samples. Fairbanks
 learned of the disposal practices six months before
 the U.S. Attorney's raid. Although he understood the
 company's disposal practices were proper, he ordered
 that the lead waste be disposed in a permitted facility,
 to be extra careful.
 Second: After cleaning heavy machinery, the company drained the
 remnants of two rapidly evaporating solvents into its zero
 discharge wastewater treatment system. This system did
 not have a federal hazardous waste permit. Known as
 Brulin and Darcy, the solvents are classified as
 hazardous. Workers also at times tossed a bucket of the
 solvents on the ground at the mill.
 Third: The company shipped mixtures of dirty motor oil and a
 flammable solvent to a recycler without proper paperwork.
 The recycler in turn sold it to an asphalt plant. The
 asphalt plant burned the mixture for energy without a
 permit. Fairbanks said that, when the U.S. Attorney
 raided, the company was a third of the way towards
 replacing the solvent at all of its shops with a system
 that did not have a disposal problem.
 Fairbanks said, "This was a materials disposal problem and none of these substances was used in manufacturing sugar.
 "Once the investigation began," Fairbanks noted, "I ordered that all mistakes that we or investigators found should be corrected at once. After the corrective actions were taken, we have been through two thorough inspections of our practices by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. No hazardous waste violations were found either time."
 Fairbanks said that U.S. Sugar has begun a major environmental restructuring as a result of the violations.
 He announced the creation of two competing environmental watchdog staffs. The company will hire a vice president of environment, health and safety and an environmental audit manager. The audit manager will operate independently. Employees will receive environmental training. The company will set up an environmental hot line for complaints and create teams to respond to reports of environmental violations and emergencies.
 He added, "I am determined that U.S. Sugar will have an extremely rigorous environmental review system that will prevent mistakes from ever happening again."
 Calling the agreement and fine "hard medicine," Fairbanks said, "A new day is dawning at U.S. Sugar. Our performance in protecting the environment will equal our commitment to protecting the environment. No harm was done to the environment. But these violations should never have happened. And I am determined that nothing like them will ever happen again."
 U.S. Sugar has headquarters in Clewiston, Fla. It also raises citrus and vegetables.
 STATEMENT FOR J. NELSON FAIRBANKS, PRESIDENT
 UNITED STATES SUGAR CORPORATION
 STATEMENT ON U.S. SUGAR PLEA AGREEMENT
 Thank you for coming. I think you know why I've invited you here.
 Two years ago, when the U.S. Attorney began his investigation, I would have bet may home and everything my wife and I own that U.S. Sugar was in total compliance with all environmental laws and regulations. I was wrong.
 No harm was done to the environment, but we made mistakes. We have fixed those mistakes. And I am determined that U.S. Sugar will make no environmental mistakes ever again.
 The U.S. Attorney has properly focused on the procedures detailed in the Federal environmental rules and regulations.
 But as a farmer, I feel I am a steward of the land. My first concern, when I was told that there could be serious violations, was that the environment might have been hurt.
 I couldn't live with myself if that were so and I could have prevented it.
 We have looked and found no harm to the environment as a result of our violations.
 Our search for environmental damage continues. If any news organization wants to work with our Research Department in looking further, I will welcome that. I want to be double and triple sure no harm was done to the environment, and I want the public to be double and triple sure, as well.
 These charges are more humiliating than I can tell you. Our policy was and is total obedience to the law and, beyond that, to act in an environmentally responsible manner even if the law does not require it. Our board of directors expects this, our 2,731 employee- owners want it, and I personally will tolerate no less.
 But after examining over 60,000 documents going back more than a decade and every detail of our operations, the U.S. Attorney has charged us in three areas in which we failed to meet this standard.
 The case basically involved errors in the handling and disposal of three hazardous wastes consisting of two solvents and one laboratory reagent. None of these chemicals was in any way used in manufacturing sugar.
 Bob Buker will go through the details of the acts that are in the Plea. All involve violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
 But let me say that once the investigation began, I ordered that all mistakes that we or the investigators found should be corrected at once. After the corrective actions were taken we have been through two thorough inspections by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. No hazardous waste violations were found either time.
 The board of directors and I are, obviously, deeply disturbed that the violations in the plea could have happened. To ensure nothing like this ever happens again, we have begun a major environmental restructuring of the corporation.
 We are establishing two competing environmental watchdog staffs to ensure that each department of the company remains in complete compliance with the law.
 We will give employees environmental training, so they understand their responsibilities and know how to prevent, spot and report any possible environmental violation.
 We are establishing an environmental hotline, so employees can make anonymous reports of problems.
 We are establishing a special team to follow up on these reports, as well as teams to handle crises.
 I am determined that U.S. Sugar will have an extremely rigorous environmental review system that, as I said, will prevent mistakes from ever happening again.
 I am determined that in every area where we have had problems, we will win back the trust that the public once had in us. Beyond that, I am determined that U.S. Sugar will become a standard of environmental responsibility.
 We are continuing our policy of openness. We've invited the media to look us over top to bottom and, as I said earlier, that includes allowing the media to join with us in looking for environmental damage that the acts involved in this plea might have caused. We will continue to fix what needs fixing.
 This is hard medicine that we are taking today. I suppose we could have gone to court and paid the lawyers just with the interest on the large fine we face. But I was satisfied that the U.S. Attorney had found real problems, and rather than play legal games, I am committed to fixing what needs to be fixed in this company.
 A new day is dawning at U.S. Sugar. Our performance in protecting the environment will equal our commitment to protecting it.
 I am thankful no harm was done to the environment. But these violations should never have happened, and I am determined that nothing like them will ever happen again.
 We agree with the U.S. Attorney that these charges are serious.
 The actions that are the subject of this plea agreement were never a matter of corporate policy at U.S. Sugar. We had corrected, or had begun correcting, two of the three problem areas months before the U.S. Attorney's raid.
 We just wanted to be careful even though we believed at the time that we were in complete compliance with the law. In a corporation of our size, mistakes at a departmental level do not make for corporate policy.
 In fact, our policy is total obedience to the law, and, beyond that, to act in an environmentally responsible manner even if the law doesn't require it.
 On three items, our performance did not equal our policy. But we fixed what needed to be fixed and we are determined to prevent any environmental violations from ever happening again.
 And, we will welcome EPA and other agencies onto our property. In searching we have found no damage to the environment, but we want the public to be absolutely sure.
 -0- 12/3/91
 /CONTACT: Otis Wragg or Ray Casas of Wragg & Casas, 305-372-1234, for U.S. Sugar Corp./ CO: U.S. Sugar Corporation ST: Florida IN: FOD SU:


MR-JJ -- FL007 -- 8835 12/03/91 14:29 EST
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Date:Dec 3, 1991
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