Sea Hawk Paints maker indicted over TBT use

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

Federal prosecutors charged a Florida paint and coatings manufacturer with conspiring to unlawfully produce and continue sales of a bottom paint containing the pesticide tributyltin methacrylate, or TBT, and falsely representing to customers and distributors that it was in compliance with federal law.

Attorneys representing the company said in court documents that the company’s actions were always made “in good faith and without the intent or knowledge to violate the law.”

An 11-count indictment handed down in South Floridas U.S. District Court Feb. 7 says that New Nautical Coatings Inc. — manufacturer of Sea Hawk Paints — and company executives concealed unlawful production and sales of Biocop by falsely representing to their customers and main distributor that the antifouling paint was in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency law.

The indictment said that New Nautical maintained a website stating Biocop is a copper and tin-based copolymer formulation that blends the benefits of a hard base with TBT and copper for the highest level of antifouling protection.” The indictment states that the website went on to say Biocop outperforms every other comparable paint that is on the market today” and due to its pesticide content, its use is most appropriate in areas of aggressive marine growth.”

Documents filed earlier this month on behalf of New Nautical Coatings president David Norrie requesting a trial delay said the company is not guilty. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro has agreed to postpone the trial until Sept. 22.

The indictment charges two companies — New Nautical Coatings Inc., doing business as Sea Hawk Paints, and Sea Hawk Refinish Line Inc., doing business as Refinish Line Auto Supplies — and four New Nautical executives: David Norrie, CEO Erik Norrie, vice president Jason Revie and sales manager Tommy Craft.

“New Nautical was prohibited from manufacturing Biocop for domestic sales after Dec. 1, 2005, the effective date of cancellation, and was prohibited from selling Biocop to anyone in the United States after Dec. 31, 2005,” the indictment said. “Contrary to EPA authorization, New Nautical continued to produce Biocop, and continued to use its sales team to sell and distribute Biocop in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere in the United States.”

The parties involved “concealed New Nautical’s unlawful production and sales by falsely representing to their customers and their primary distributor, M.Y.D., that the Biocop sold after Dec. 31, 2005, was in compliance with EPA authorization and federal law,” the indictment read.

“By producing and selling Biocop, an unregistered pesticide, for domestic use and application, and by concealing such acts from the EPA and customers, New Nautical and Refinish Line and their co-conspirators derived pecuniary gains in excess of $2,000,000,” the indictment read.

The company “willingly” acted “to defraud the United States, that is, to impede, impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful functions of the EPA in enforcing federal environmental regulations,” the indictment said.

None of the entities listed in the indictment or their attorneys returned emails or phone calls requesting comment. However, court documents filed on behalf of David Norrie say “there are substantial legal issues raised by the government’s indictment.”

“This is a very complicated and technical issue,” said a motion filed by Michael Pasano, who is listed as David Norrie’s counsel. “The defendants have pleaded not guilty and insist that their actions were always made in good faith and without the intent or knowledge to violate the law.”

The motion that requested a trial delay said that “although Congress took no action to declare TBT illegal in the United States, in the early 2000s the EPA began pressuring TBT products registrants to surrender their registration. Facing tremendous pressure, including the EPA’s refusal to register any other New Nautical products, New Nautical reluctantly agreed to what the EPA calls a ‘voluntary cancellation,’ effective Dec. 31, 2005.”

According to the indictment, TBT-based coatings leach their constituent components into seawater. “Over time, high concentrations of TBT were found in marinas, ports, harbors and even the open seas and oceanic waters,” the indictment said. “TBT was found to have significant harmful effects on marine life, causing growth retardation, immuno-suppression and imposex, which is the development of male characteristics in females. TBT was also bio-accumulative, meaning it increased in concentration in the food chain.”

The EPA states on its website:

“EPA has canceled all TBT antifouling paint product registrations; cancellation of the last such registration was effective in December 2005. The effective date is the last date the product can be sold by the registrant. We expect that any remaining supplies of TBT antifouling paints have diminished greatly or been exhausted.”

The motion filed by David Norrie’s defense said that “as early as 2009 or before, the EPA began investigating New Nautical and Refinish Line, and its officers and employees, relating to allegations that Biocop manufacture and sales continued after December 2005.”

“This investigation produced consensual tape recordings and a search of the business in November 2009. To date, neither any tape recordings or the materials seized during the 2009 search have been produced to the defense,” the motion said.

“There were also several grand jury subpoenas that generated records,” court documents filed by Pasano said. “These materials have not yet been produced.”

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Comments

11 comments on “Sea Hawk Paints maker indicted over TBT use

  1. LARRY

    FUNNY THAT THE EPA IS WILLING TO POLICE AND CRACK DOWN ON ANY SMALL BUSINESS, BUT SHY AWAY FROM THE MAJOR OIL AND GAS COMPANIES DOING A LOT OF MORE DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE PEOPLE. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A LOT EASIER TO PICK ON THE SMALL GUY, NOTHING NEW, EVEN FROM ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, AND ALL OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE ALL THE WAY TO (and in)WASHINGTON/
    NOT JUST ENVIRONMENTALLY, BUT POLITICALLY AND EVEN GLOBAL. HECK LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENING IN RUSSIA TODAY! (guess its a human thing………)
    I DO REMEMBER WAY BACK TO THE FIRST DAYS OF BOATING….. WASN’T BOTTOM PAINT INVENTED AND MEANT TO KILL GROWING ORGANISM? (the Navy uses it extensively).
    AND ISN’T TBT STILL USED WIDELY AROUND THE WORLD BY AND IN MANY MARINAS? EVEN IF ILLEGAL HERE……

  2. MAW

    THERE ARE VERY GOOD REASONS FOR WHY TBT WAS BANNED AS AN ANTIFOULANT IN THE US (AND BY THE IMO), IT IS EXTREMELY TOXIC AND PERSISTS IN THE ENVIRONMENT.
    BIG OR SMALL . . . ANY BUSINESS THAT POISONS THE ENVIRONMENT BY ILLEGALLY SELLING PESTICIDES THAT ARE NOT APPROVED BY THE US EPA SHOULDN’T BE IN BUSINESS.
    WAY BACK IN THE FIRST DAYS OF BOATING, NOAH USED PITCH AND TAR, NOT TBT.
    MOVE TO CHINA IF YOU WANT TO BOAT AND FISH WHERE TBT, DDT, AND OTHER POISONS ARE STILL WIDELY USED.

  3. pilothouseking

    Yeah, totally illegal for small boats, but fine for BIG ships and our military. That makkes sense. Totally ignore REAL issues and pick on the small businessman. What, he wouldn’t sell to a International conglomerate or something?

  4. Captain Tom

    This is a cheap shot, launched by some politically motivated boating opponent, aimed at a small family owned business, that will now cost them thousands of dollars to defend themselves.
    Since its establishment in 1978, the family owned and operated New Nautical Coatings, Inc. company has been the manufacturer of Sea Hawk Paint.
    Since 1978 (35 years?) no one has had a problem? Why now?
    This is a clear case of selective prosecution and misdirection designed to take the spotlight off of the real offenders.
    I guess a small business is an easier target than those that make major contributions to PAC’s and others who represent the “Commercial Shipping” groups.
    The “pleasure” boat market, as small as it is, is portrayed as a major polluter; however, how many hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial freighter/tanker/container ships bottom’s, that are covered with who knows what, ply US waters, totally exempt from any regulation?
    How many “Magic Pipes” go undetected and uncited? How much bilge waste is dumped into our waters?
    The “pleasure” boat market is an easy target; because, even with organizations like Boat US and other pleasure boat advocates, they are financially no match for the billions in “Influence” monies provided to our politicians through PAC’s and other commercial shipping supporters. The spot light needs to be turned on the real culprits and polluters and those that through their actions allow this to continue.

  5. Kevin Carlan

    Is the EPA that is after these guys the same as the one that endorses/mandates ethanol blended fuels? I can’t imagine that an organization concerned about pesticides ending up in our waterways could also mandate increased agriculture (largest contributor to pesticide run-off by far) practices that are not life sustaining for food production.

  6. Fred

    While our government be may very corrupt and choosey where it strikes its gavel…there is no exuse to sell TBT based antifoulings. These paints are extremely persistent in the environment, are extremely damaging and are against US and International regulations.

  7. Dwayne

    I think we all believe that TBT is great for anti-fouling – and that it isn’t available anymore – the issue is that the rest of us that played by the rules, got screwed again. If it is true that they cheated, then they should not be in business ! Apparently SeaHawk was great paint – and illegal !!!!

  8. Lee

    A lie, is a lie, is a lie. Has nothing to do with persecution of small business or
    whether substance should be banned or not. Has to do with businessmen allegedly defying the law for personal gain.

  9. Marsh

    As someone that has worked with the senate to control TBT PAINTS, I have seen first hand the damage it does to the enviroment and how it has deformed shell fish. It has no place in our marine enviroment.

  10. Rob

    This article is incredibly slanted and certainly does not present all of the facts in this case, just those that will “Sell Papers”.

    While I personally may agree or disagree with the comments presented here, one must keep in mind that an indictment, even 11 of them, is not a conviction.

    No matter what your stance, in our system of justice you are not guilty until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    Attorneys representing the company said in court documents that the company’s actions were always made “in good faith and without the intent or knowledge to violate the law.”

    The company has indicated its stand is “Not Guilty” and alleges “There are substantial legal issues raised by the government’s indictment.”

    Information provided in this article indicates:

    “This investigation produced consensual tape recordings and a search of the business in November 2009. To date, neither any tape recordings or the materials seized during the 2009 search have been produced to the defense,”

    “There were also several grand jury subpoenas that generated records,” court documents filed by Pasano said. “These materials have not yet been produced.”

    Wow, what a surprise.

    For the EPA to proceed against this apparent “Soft Target” does raise questions about the motives of the EPA and the Justice Department; particularly in light of their velvet glove approach to other major environmental violators, but pose a more formidable “Hard Targets”.

    Amidst all of the media hype and moral outcry, there will be the question; did they actually violate the Law, and the key word here is “Law”; or did they violated some arbitrary rule or an individual’s moral stance, which is not substantiated in the law.

    There have been many versions of this phrase, but the meaning is the same – In the court room you will find the Law; but, if you are looking for Justice there, you are looking in the wrong place.

    The government will have to provide irrefutable proof that the law was violated here; but in the end no matter what the out come, the government lawyers will go home no worse off than when they started, while the Sea Hawk company will never recover.

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