|For Immediate Release
April 30, 1999
Contact: Tom MacKenzie
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE SPECIAL AGENT HONORED
BY U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Patrick McIntosh, who works in the agency's law enforcement office in Savannah, Georgia, was honored April 28, 1999 by the U.S. Department of Justice at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., for his role in the successful investigation of a major chemical contamination case in southern Georgia. That investigation, which produced charges against a New Jersey-based corporation and six company officials, resulted in the Nation's first successful prosecution for the illegal take of an endangered species by pollution.
"Special Agent McIntosh's work on this case shows how essential law enforcement is to protecting endangered species and their habitat," said Service Southeast Regional Director Sam Hamilton. "Those who poison our waters will be held accountable for ignoring the laws that safeguard the environment, our wildlife resources, and human health."
Hanlin Group, Inc., owner of the LCP Chemicals facility in Brunswick, Georgia, pleaded guilty last year to an 11-count bill of information charging conspiracy and violations of four federal environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, in connection with the pollution of coastal waters surrounding southern Georgia's "Golden Isles." McIntosh's investigation, which began when Service biologists discovered mercury poisoning in endangered wood storks on St. Simon's Island, helped trace the source of the contamination to the LCP plant. That facility had been declared a Superfund site when it closed in 1994 and was already under scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Through numerous interviews and the painstaking review of hundreds of boxes of company records, McIntosh and his EPA counterparts compiled evidence showing that, from the mid-1980's until its closure, the LCP plant had discharged nearly 150 tons of mercury into Purvis Creek, a tributary of the Turtle River, and the surrounding tidal marshes. The investigation also indicated that this dumping of toxic waste occurred with the knowledge and sanction of company and plant officials and that workers at the plant had been unlawfully exposed to mercury.
Biologists in the Brunswick, Georgia Field Office, who provided key support for the investigation, found mercury in shellfish, fish, crabs, and shrimp taken in coastal waters and in the area's wood stork population, including rookeries as far away as St. Simon's Island. They concluded that mercury levels detected in the large, long-legged wading birds had disrupted their normal breeding patterns. Wood storks, which feed upon small fish, have been protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1984; only about 5,000 pairs breed each year.
The mercury also presented a threat to humans. Untreated processing wastes at the plant exposed LCP employees to harmful levels of mercury. The contamination prompted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to issue health advisories last September warning against consumption of any seafood taken from Purvis Creek, the Turtle River, and associated marshes.
Individuals indicted in the case on multiple felony counts include Hanlin Group, Inc.'s chief executive officer, the corporation's chief financial officer, and the former manager of the LCP plant. The three, who were found guilty of conspiracy, environmental violations, and knowing endangerment of plant workers in January, will be sentenced in May.
Three other plant officials, including its environmental officer, pleaded guilty to various lesser charges, cooperated with the prosecution, and were sentenced in Federal district court in Brunswick earlier this month. Punishment in these cases included prison terms up to 18 months, fines, probation, home detention, and community service. The court, however, declined to sentence the corporation itself, which could have been fined as much as $3.5 million, because Hanlin Group, Inc. is now engaged in bankruptcy proceedings and any financial penalty would only come at the expense of its creditors.
McIntosh, who has covered southern Georgia for the Service's law enforcement division since 1983, has been a special agent for the past 20 years. Honored in 1996 by the Justice Department for his investigations of illegal commercial shrimping, he worked previously as a Service wildlife inspector and as an enforcement officer with the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 Ecological Services field offices. The agency administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, enforces federal wildlife laws, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.
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1999 News Releases