The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 7, 2014

Our View: Say you're sorry

Here’s a form of punishment we favor: If you break the law, you pay the fine or do the time, but you also have to say you’re sorry.

Essentially, that’s what an Iowa company will have to do because it released thousands of gallons of gasoline-contaminated water in 2010 into Duenweg’s sewer system. By doing so it created a situation so dangerous that vapors from the gas-contaminated water could have exploded near Duenweg Elementary School. The school’s 150 students were evacuated after the vapors were detected, but the potential for an explosion was apparently not known at that time.

Seneca Companies, based in Des Moines, Iowa, pleaded guilty this past week in federal court to the negligent release of gas into a publicly owned sewer system without a permit. A gas line failure allowed gas to accumulate in a containment sump at Casey’s General Store, 8084 E. Seventh St., in Duenweg in December of 2010. Seneca had agreed to repair the line and pumped the contaminated water out of the containment sump and into the sewer system, according to Tammy Dickinson, a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Seneca Companies now must pay a fine of at least $75,000 and up to $200,000 as well as restitution during a term of five years of probation. The company must also conduct annual training for all employees engaged in the repair of underground gas storage tanks and proper disposal.

But the judge also went one step further in assigning punishment. Seneca Companies must publish a public apology seven days in a row. The judge’s reasoning was that it would provide a deterrent for other potential violators of the Clean Water Act.

If it proves so, then judges should consider taking this action more often.

We certainly like the sound of it.

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