Fish oil producer Omega Protein has entered a plea agreement in a U.S. District Court that will cost it USD 1.2 million (EUR 1.15 million) for violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act.
Omega Protein, based in Houston, Texas, harvests menhaden and coverts their oil and meal into products for human and animal nutrition. Its plea agreement, filed 15 December with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana, pertains to violations found at the company’s operations in Abbeville, Louisiana. The violations included the illegal dumping of wastewater into a canal, and will cost the company a fine of USD 1 million (EUR 958,000) and a community service payment of USD 200,000 (EUR 192,000). Omega Protein also faces a three-year probationary period and the company could still face additional criminal charges related to the offense, according to a company financial statement.
As a result of the plea, a U.S. Districtor Court in Virginia extended Omega Protein’s probation stemming from a previous plea agreement made by the company in 2013, which cost the company USD 7.5 million (EUR 7.2 million) in fines. As part of that agreement, the company admitted to two violations of the Clean Water Act as a result of bilge water discharge practices discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard at the company’s facility in Reedville, Virginia.
In its most recent financial statement, the company also acknowledged receiving a Civil Investigative Demand from the U.S. Department of Justice in October, in connection with a False Claims Act investigation. According to the company, the government is investigating whether the company violated the False Claims Act in connection with Omega Protein’s May 2010 certification to the U.S. Department of Commerce that its Reedville, Virginia facility was in compliance with federal environmental laws in order to obtain a loan guarantee under the Department of Commerce’s Title XI loan program.
“The company is collecting the requested information and intends to deliver appropriately responsive materials to the Department of Justice,” Omega Protein said in its statement. “The company cannot predict the outcome of the investigation or the effect of the findings of the investigation on the company, but it is possible that the foregoing matter could result in a material adverse effect on the company’s business, reputation, results of operation and financial condition.”
Omega Protein is a public company with its shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Since hitting a low of USD 16.34 (EUR 15.64) in April, shares of the company have risen, reaching a price of USD 24.95 (EUR 23.88) in pre-market trading on 21 December.