The former manager of a Smyrna-based chemical packaging plant was arraigned Tuesday on federal charges involving a chemical spill in the Chattahoochee River watershed two years ago.
Carlos Conde, 37, is charged with violating the Clean Water Act and making false statements to a federal agent who investigated the spill, according to a Department of Justice release.
He is accused of instructing his employees to wash the toxic chemicals down a drain and into a nearby creek.
Investigators say a batching tank at the Apollo Industries chemical mixing facility along Cobb Industrial Boulevard began leaking a carburetor cleaner containing the toxic chemical naphthalene in August 2016.
The next morning, two workers discovered the spill and notified Conde, according to the DOJ. Conde arrived at the plant and allegedly instructed his employees to wash the chemical away with water from multiple hoses, according to U.S. Attorney BJay Pak.
The chemical was washed into a tributary of Nickajack Creek and the Chattahoochee River. Conde twice denied his role in the spill cleanup during interviews with a federal agent from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, federal investigators allege.
“The Chattahoochee is one of Georgia’s jewels that must be protected from those who recklessly damage the wildlife and environment,” Pak said.
Naphthalene is made from crude oil or coal tar and was first registered as a pesticide in the U.S. in 1948, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. It is regularly used in mothballs, but the chemical is also produced when things burn. It can be found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust and smoke from forest fires.
The MDJ reported two years ago that 2,300 gallons of the chemical flowed through a local creek following an overnight gasket failure on a mixing tank in the Smyrna plant.
Residents of the nearby Kenwood neighborhood raised concerns when a stream running through their subdivision turned white.
Residents also said the water had a pungent, gasoline-like odor. Cobb firefighters estimated the chemical traveled downstream about three-quarters of a mile before EPA employees slowed the flow by building a makeshift dam out of sandbags and dirt in an effort to prevent further contamination.
The case against Conde is being investigated by the EPA’s criminal investigation division.