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FIRM TO PAY $18.5 MILLION IN WASTE CASE

SHARE FIRM TO PAY $18.5 MILLION IN WASTE CASE

A federal judge has accepted Rockwell International Corp.'s agreement to plead guilty to 10 counts of illegally disposing of radioactive wastes at the Rocky Flats weapons site and pay an $18.5 million fine.

The fine is the second largest assessed against a company for environmental damage. Exxon Corp. paid $125 million for damages caused by the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.U.S. District Judge Sherman Finesilver in Denver on Monday approved the March 26 agreement between Rockwell and federal prosecutors. Rockwell pleaded guilty in March to four felony violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and one felony and five misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act.

Prosecutors have said the fine, of which $2 million will be remitted to the state of Colorado to settle claims against the company, also is the largest ever imposed in a hazardous waste case.

Rockwell, of Seal Beach, Calif., said it was "pleased" that the agreement had been accepted.

A grand jury investigation was launched following a FBI raid on the Department of Energy's weapons plant in the Denver suburbs in June 1989. The raid on the plant managed by Rockwell led to government charges that employees dumped toxic and radioactive wastes into streams flowing through the 6,500-acre complex.

According to court documents, Rockwell illegally stored and treated hazardous wastes, including cadmium, chromium, salt brine concentrate and vacuum filter sludge, without a permit during its production of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.

Prosecutors also accused Rockwell of illegally discharging wastes through its sewage treatment plant, creating the potential for contamination from runoff to a reservoir used for drinking water.