United States v. Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation
LOCATION: Frontiero's Residence

DOCKET NO.: 72-624
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 411 US 655 (1973)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1973
DECIDED: May 14, 1973

Harold Gondelman - for respondent
William Bradford Reynolds - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1973 in United States v. Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in 72-624, United States against Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation.

Mr. Reynolds, you may proceed.

William Bradford Reynolds:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

To review that court’s judgment, reversing the judgment of conviction by the District Court in remanding to further proceedings.

The action was commenced by criminal information in April 1971 against respondent, Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Corporation, hereafter referred to as PICCO.

The Company was charged in four counts with violating Section 13 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the so-called Refuse Act, which in relevant part makes it unlawful without first obtaining permission from the Secretary of the Army to discharge into any navigable water of the United States.

“Any refuse matter of any kind or description whatever, other than that flowing from streets and sewers and passing therefrom in a liquid state.”

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Reynolds what was the date of the alleged offense here charged?

William Bradford Reynolds:

The date were -- there were two dates.

August 7 and August 19, 1970.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Do you know why though why the complaint, I think it was by complaint here, didn’t zero in on a post December date?

William Bradford Reynolds:

No, Your Honor, I don’t know why they --

Harry A. Blackmun:

Would it simplify the case somewhat --

William Bradford Reynolds:

It certainly would’ve made a much different --

William H. Rehnquist:

I suppose they weren’t anybody canoeing on the Monongahela in December?

William Bradford Reynolds:

Well, at least nobody apparently was sampling the discharges on the Monongahela after that date, but the date of the offenses though were August 7 and August 19, 1970.

Now, the discharges involved here flowed into the Monongahela River admittedly a navigable water from two pipes owned by PICCO and used by the Company to carry off treated waste matter left in the manufacture of chemical compounds used in Industry.

One of the pipes, an iron pipe, served only PICCO’s plant.

The other, a concrete pipe, served the plant primarily, but was also used by six private residences nearby essentially to discard used laundry water.

On August 7 and again on August 19, 1970, the discharges from the two pipes were sampled by private citizens, and the samples were turned over to the Allegheny County Bureau of Test for chemical analysis.

This analysis revealed that the effluent flowing from PICCO’s pipe contained a disproportionably high amount of aluminum, some iron, chloride, phosphate and other chemicals all in greater amounts than were found in the midstream waters of the river, and an unusually high quantity of suspended solids.

At trial, PICCO took the position that the industrial waste it was discharging into the Monongahela River did not constitute prohibited refuse matter under the Act.

First it argued that the Refuse Act covers only river deposits that impede navigation, not non-impeding liquid solutions of the sort involved here.

In the alternative it urged that the discharge from its plant was nothing more than sewage, and thus came within the explicit statutory exception.

Both of these contentions were rejected by the District Court.

They were renewed in the Court of Appeals and also rejected.

No cross petition was filed by respondent in this Court seeking further review of those rulings.

And thus the application of the Refuse Act to discharges of the type involved in this case is not at issue here, because the judgment under review is based on the premise that the act apply to these discharges.

Rather, the issues before the Court relate essentially to the second proviso in the act which provides that the Secretary of the Army “may permit” the deposit of otherwise prohibited material in navigable waters if navigation will not be adversely affected thereby, provided that application is made to the Secretary prior to depositing such material.