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Utah company accused of dumping pollutants into sewer is fined $2M

South Salt Lake Cytozyme Laboratories, charged with illegally dumping pollutants into the city's sewer system, reached a plea deal on Wednesday that included what is believed to be a near record fine for the county of $2 million.

South Salt Lake Cytozyme Laboratories, charged with illegally dumping pollutants into the city's sewer system, reached a plea deal on Wednesday that included what is believed to be a near record fine for the county of $2 million. (Ded Mityay, Shutterstock)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SOUTH SALT LAKE — A South Salt Lake company accused of illegally dumping pollutants into the city's sewer system over a two-year period was ordered Wednesday to pay what prosecutors believe is a near record $2 million fine.

"Accountability matters," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in a prepared statement following the guilty plea. "This is one of the largest criminal fines a corporation has faced for polluting in Utah history. Our job is not only to help keep our community safe, but also our environment. Protecting our resources today insures a better future for our children and community."

Cytozyme Laboratories, Inc., 2700 S. 600 West, manufactures fertilizers and other agricultural supplements. In October, the company, its director of operations Anna Kolliopoulos, and the company's chief operating officer and chief financial officer David John Bitter, were each charged with unlawful discharge of pollutants violating the state's water quality act, a third-degree felony. The company was charged with two counts while the two Individual defendants were each charged with one.

During a court hearing on Wednesday, a plea deal was announced between Cytozyme and the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office. The company pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful discharge of pollutants. That plea will be held in abeyance for three years. If Cytozyme has no other violations during that time, the charges will be reduced to class A misdemeanors.

Wednesday's plea agreement did not address the charges against the individual employees.

The plea deal includes a $2 million fine. Additionally, the company must pay about $135,000 total in in restitution to the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility, the Salt Lake County Health Department, and South Salt Lake Public Works.

Cytozyme was issued a business license by South Salt Lake in 2013. According to the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility in South Salt Lake, Cytozyme claimed in 2013 that it had no wastewater discharge and reused its processed water, charging documents state.

But current and former employees of Cytozyme told investigators that employees regularly disposed of wastewater by discharging it to the sewer on a near-daily basis, according to charging documents.

In their written plea agreement, prosecutors stated that at least 40 times between 2018 and 2020, Cytozyme "intentionally discharged pollutants into a sewer line attached to their facility."

One of those instances was in March of 2020 when illegal levels of zinc were found in South Salt Lake's main sewer line upstream and downstream from Cytozyme, according to the charges. The day after that discovery, wastewater discharged to the sewer by Cytozyme obstructed their grease traps, which caused wastewater to overflow from the manhole covers in Cytozyme's parking lot and flow into the gutter and South Salt Lake's storm drain system. Samples taken from the water found illegal levels of copper, zinc, molybdenum and high pH, the charging documents state.

Two months later, an overflow at the facility resulted in a spill onto a workroom floor at Cytozyme, according to investigators. The Salt Lake County Health Department took samples from the spill and found the levels of copper in the liquid was eight times over the legal limit and the level of zinc was 28 times over the state limit, the charges state.

Other conditions to the plea agreement include: Cytozyme must be open to random inspections — including from the Environmental Protection Agency — over the next three years without prior notice; the company has to submit a pollution prevention plan to the Salt Lake County Health Department within 90 days for approval on how to improve staff training and address spills and accidental discharges; and the company must disable any infrastructure designed to allow for unlawful discharges to occur.

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