Federal indictments were handed down this week charging Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. and five managers with violating federal workplace safety laws and obstructing criminal and regulatory investigations by EPA and OSHA.

The criminal charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. The 35-count indictment was unsealed with the arrests of Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. plant manager John Prisque, maintenance supervisor Jeffrey Maury, engineering and environmental manager Daniel Yadzinski, and finishing superintendent Craig Davidson. The arrests took place at the plant. Former Atlantic States human resource manager Scott Faubert was to surrender later at the federal courthouse in Trenton.

The feds charged Atlantic States and the individual defendants with alleged repeated cover-ups from health and safety inspectors of crushing injuries to employees, broken bones, amputations and burns from furnaces and molten iron; and routine and concealed releases of high levels of pollutants.

In one incident, the defendants allegedly repaired a forklift with faulty brakes that had run over and killed an employee before OSHA inspectors arrived. Later they performed a misleading demonstration to make it appear the brakes were fully operational and lied to inspectors about the incident, and subsequently lied under oath in a deposition in a lawsuit brought by the employee's widow.

The foundry managers pleaded innocent to the charges.

McWane, Inc., the parent company of Atlantic States, was the subject of a nine-month investigation by The New York Times. The newspaper reported in January that McWane had more safety violations than its competitors and endangered workers' lives.

Atlantic States issued a statement saying "charges do not reflect the condition of our plants or the manner in which we conduct our business… we are confident this proceeding also will confirm the considerable progress Atlantic States and McWane have achieved in environmental, health and safety excellence through substantial investment and the efforts of management and employees."

McWane claims to have invested more than $150 million in safety and environmental systems at its plants since 1997. The company says it has raised employee awareness of workplace safety through extensive, OSHA-approved training and a comprehensive ethics and compliance policy.

Pat Tyson, a former OSHA chief hired by McWane to conduct a top-to-bottom evaluation of the company, said in the statement, "McWane is a company that takes safety very seriously and has clearly turned the corner."