Feds want fine, not service for Pawtucket mercury spill

Federal prosecutors are calling for a $500,000 fine on the Texas natural gas firm that illegally stored liquid mercury for two years in a Pawtucket building, Boston.com reports. More

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Feds want fine, not service for Pawtucket mercury spill

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS prefer a fine to a community service sentence for Southern Union, the natural gas firm that illegally stored liquid mercury in Pawtucket
Posted 7/30/13

PROVIDENCE – Federal prosecutors are calling for a $500,000 fine on the Texas natural gas firm that illegally stored liquid mercury for two years in a Pawtucket building, Boston.com reports.

A judge had decided to solicit ideas for a community service sentence after a U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down his original $18 million penalty.

U.S. District Judge William Smith in April said the maximum $500,000 fine allowed following the Supreme Court ruling would not deter the firm, Southern Union, or other companies from similar crimes. Smith decided on a community service sentence instead and consulted with environmental groups as well as prosecutors and the company on what sentence might have the “broadest possible impact.”

However, prosecutors last week filed a brief urging Smith to impose the fine instead.

Southern Union stored liquid mercury from old gas regulators without a permit in glass jars, a plastic jug, and other containers in a neglected building in a heavily-populated area of Pawtucket. Teenagers later dumped the mercury at the building and at a nearby housing complex, causing an evacuation. Residents have since shown symptoms of mercury exposure, including high blood levels of mercury, hair loss and rashes.

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