Prison Terms Set in Marine Coating Case
The brother-owners of a Florida-based marine coatings company will serve time in prison for producing and selling a TBT-containing antifouling for years after the toxic product was banned.
Erik and David Norrie, who headed New Nautical Coatings Inc. (dba Sea Hawk Paints) and related companies in Clearwater, FL, had pleaded guilty to selling coatings containing the pesticide tributyltin methacrylate (TBT), although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cancelled the company's pesticide registration in 2005.
New Nautical and David Norrie also admitted to obstruction of justice in the case.
New Nautical was the last company in the United States to produce and sell TBT-containing antifouling coatings.
New Nautical has also been fined $1,235,315—the company's illegal profits from selling the antifouling called Sea Hawk Biocop until 2009, the Justice Department announced.
Another Norrie company, Sea Hawk Refinish Line Inc. (dba Refinish Line Auto Paint Supplies) was also charged and pleaded guilty in the case.
Prison and Probation
Under the sentences handed down Dec. 5:
Erik Norrie, the prison-bound CEO of New Nautical Coatings Inc., gained fame as the "world's unluckiest man" after surviving a shark attack and other misadventures.
In addition to its fine, New Nautical Coatings was sentenced to three years of probation and must complete an Environmental Compliance Program during that time. Sea Hawk Refinish was placed on one year of probation.
TBT is a toxic bio-accumulative chemical pesticide subject to registration with the EPA; the compound has been found to have a significant harmful effect on marine life.
The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships banned the use of TBT in 2001; the U.S. joined the ban in 2012.
Nevertheless, New Nautical aggressively marketed its TBT-and-copper formulation as "the highest level of antifouling protection."
"...Biocop outperforms every other comparable paint that is on the market today," the company's website boasted, according to the indictment. "Due to its pesticide content, its use is most appropriate in areas of aggressive marine growth."
The EPA offered New Nautical and other marine coating makers a long phase-out for their TBT products if they voluntarily cancelled their registrations. An EPA representative began negotiating a phaseout with New Nautical as early as 2003, authorities said.
|Wikimedia / Neil 916|
New Nautical advertised Biocop, made with TBT and copper, for fighting "aggressive marine growth."
Finally, on March 30, 2005, the EPA cancelled New Nautical's registration for Biocop, making it illegal for the company to sell and produce it after December 2005.
New Nautical continued to manufacture and distribute Biocop, however, by devising a plan to make it appear as if its inventory pre-dated the ban, the Justice Department said.
New Nautical sold much of its inventory to an "unwitting partner," a distributor that was told (and then told its customers) that the Biocop came from existing stocks. New Nautical back-dated batch numbers on new Biocop shipments as a ruse.
David Norrie lied to an EPA inspector that New Nautical had sold off the stock, and he told one customer after a 60-gallon sale of Biocop to hide the product from the EPA, prosecutors said.
The Norries' sister company, Refinish Line, did not even sell marine coatings, but New Nautical Coatings faked a $1.3 million sale of banned antifouling to Refinish to hide the inventory, prosecutors said.
The scheme began to unravel in 2009 when the duped owner of the distributor realized (and told authorities) that New Nautical was selling newly made product, authorities said.
New Nautical then turned to Refinish Line, creating a sham $1.38 million invoice for the sale of 9,500 gallons of Biocop allegedly made before the ban. (Refinish Line sold auto paint, not boat paint; the company was just used as a straw-man buyer, prosecutors said.)
The Norrie brothers had sought to escape prison terms in the case, saying a Pre-Sentence Investigation by prosecutors "overstates the seriousness of the offense" and calling the illegal sales an "incorrect interpretation" of the EPA ban.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," the Justice Department responded in its own Sentencing Memorandum.
The Norries even argued that prosecutors should go after their former production manager, who changed the batch numbers under their order, rather than the brothers themselves.
"Notably," wrote prosecutors, the Norries "do not object to the fact that the batch numbers were changed, when they were changed, or that the Norries directed New Nautical employees to change those numbers."