Sea Hawk Paints executives get prison terms in banned-coating case

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A marine coatings company and two executives who pleaded guilty in October to willfully conspiring to obstruct the Environmental Protection Agency by selling a known pesticide were fined more than $1 million and sentenced to prison time.

New Nautical Coatings, doing business as Sea Hawk Paints and Sea Hawk Refinish Line, was sentenced to pay a fine of $1,235,315 on Dec. 5, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

New Nautical was sentenced to a three-year period of probation, which requires the company to complete an environmental compliance program during that period of time.

Company president David Norrie, who pleaded guilty to willfully conspiring to obstruct the EPA, was sentenced to five months in prison and six months of home confinement.

Chief executive officer Erik Norrie, who pleaded guilty to willfully conspiring to knowingly distribute and sell an unregistered pesticide, was sentenced to three months in prison.

Sea Hawk Refinish Line Inc., which pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy, was sentenced to probation for one year.

Vice president Jason Revie and national sales manager Tommy Craft previously pleaded guilty to knowingly distributing and selling an unregistered pesticide and was each sentenced to a one-year period of probation.

Maureen O'Mara, special agent in charge of the EPA's criminal enforcement program in Florida, told Trade Only Today in an email that the sentencing sends “an important message that criminals looking to line their pockets at the expense of the law will be held accountable."

"In pursuit of EPA's mission of protecting public health and the environment, we will vigorously investigate the unauthorized sale of toxic chemicals that can leach into our marine environment," O’Mara said. "Our mission is seriously undermined when criminals knowingly submit false information and bypass the rules preventing the regulatory system from doing its job of controlling pollution.”

A memo filed by attorneys for the Norries and New Nautical asked the court for time paying the fine.

“New Nautical is a small family company that has been competing in an industry dominated by multibillion-dollar companies,” said a memo filed by Gary Trombley on Dec. 1. “It has stayed competitive by making high-quality products and staying at the forefront of technology with the development of cutting-edge marine antifouling products.”

Court papers showed that the company disputed the harmful effects of the pesticide tributyltin methacrylate, or TBT.

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

The indictment said 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.”

“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.”

“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 said.

According to the EPA, TBT-based coatings leach their constituent components into seawater.

“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,” the indictment said. “TBT was also bio-accumulative, meaning it increased in concentration in the food chain.”

The EPA says on its website that it “has canceled all TBT antifouling paint product registrations; cancellation of the last such registration was effective in December 2005.”

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