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.