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Plant manager allegedly ordered chemicals be washed into Chattahoochee 
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Plant manager allegedly ordered chemicals be washed into Chattahoochee 

Plant manager allegedly ordered chemicals be washed into Chattahoochee 
Crews work at the site of chemicals in a Smyrna creek that left it chalky white. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Plant manager allegedly ordered chemicals be washed into Chattahoochee 

Prosecutors say a Cobb County plant manager allegedly ordered toxic chemicals be washed into a tributary of the Chattahoochee River and lied about it to authorities.

Carlos Conde, 37, has been indicted on charges of violating the Clean Water Act and lying to agents following the 2016 spill, according to a Wednesday news release from federal prosecutors.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time, some of the 25 residents in the Kenwood subdivision in Smyrna called authorities the morning of Aug. 13, 2016 saying that the creek behind their homes had turned milky.

Conde, of Smyrna, ran daily operations at Apollo Industries, now Plaze Georgia, when the spill happened.

A message for a vice president at Plaze was not immediately returned Wednesday.


READHit after hit, is historic Concord Road Covered Bridge worth keeping?


“Conde allegedly instructed workers to intentionally wash toxic and hazardous chemicals into the Chattahoochee River watershed,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in the news release. “The Chattahoochee is one of Georgia’s jewels that must be protected from those who recklessly damage the wildlife and environment.”

On Aug. 12, 2016 a batching tank at Apollo’s chemical mixing facility in Smyrna started leaking naphthalene, which is used to clean carburetors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says naphthalene smells like mothballs and can be toxic to humans in large doses.


READNearly a dozen decapitated goats found in Chattahoochee River


The next morning, the feds said, two workers found the leak and called Conde, who allegedly told them to wash it into an unnamed offshoot of the Chattahoochee and Nickajack Creek.

Conde then twice denied his role in the spill during interviews with a federal agent and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The case has been sealed by a judge, federal prosecutors said Wednesday, so no further details are publicly known.

Bert Langley, director of compliance at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, said at the time that his staff removed 500,000 gallons of contaminated water from the creek and moved it to storage tanks at Apollo for disposal or treatment.


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Langley said the leak killed as many as several hundred fish. He explained that the impact was so great and concentrated because the creek was so small.

Apollo at the time posted a letter on its website saying it had hired a consultant to help with the testing and another to help figure out how the spill happened, which they said would include interviewing employees.

“It is important that we continue to remain vigilant to protect our precious waters throughout the southeast,” said Trey Glenn, regional EPA administrator, said in the news release.

Conde’s next court date was not available online.

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  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been recognized with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for a lifetime in comedy. After a 35-year acting career, she has two iconic television characters to her name -- Elaine Benes of 'Seinfeld' and foul-mouthed Vice-President Selina Meyer. She is the 21st person the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has honored with the award. Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert and 2010 Mark Twain recipient Tina Fey are among those offering testimonials to her talent. Louis-Dreyfus accepted her award with an extended comedic bit and a few shots at new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
  • House Democrats are expected to re-open the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election if they win the majority in November. But they would have to be selective in what they investigate. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, has said his party would have to 'ruthlessly prioritize the most important matters first.' The Republican-led Intelligence Committee was the only House panel to investigate Russian meddling, and its investigation is now closed. Republicans say they found no evidence of collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign. Democrats say Republicans ignored key facts and important witnesses and want to restart parts of the investigation if they win the House. But some Democrats also worry that there could be a political cost if they overreach. Schiff and other lawmakers say they are closely watching special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and the Senate's Russia probe to look for gaps that they could fill. And if Mueller issues any findings, their investigative plans could change. 'My sense is that we want to be precise,' says California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the intelligence panel. Here's a look at what Democrats are likely to investigate if they take the House majority. ___ MONEY LAUNDERING Schiff has repeatedly said a priority for Democrats would be investigating whether Russians used laundered money for transactions with the Trump Organization. Trump's businesses have benefited from Russian investment over the years. Schiff said he wants to know whether 'this is the leverage that the Russians have' over Trump. Other committees might also want to look into money laundering, including the House Financial Services panel. It's unclear whether Mueller is probing money laundering related to the president's business. ___ MORE WITNESSES The Democrats issued a list in March of several dozen people whom the committee hadn't yet interviewed when the Russia investigation was shut down. Democrats would want to call in some — but probably not all — of those witnesses. Former Trump campaign advisers Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos are among them. They all pleaded guilty to various charges in the Mueller probe and have cooperated with prosecutors. Important witnesses whose credibility Democrats have questioned might also be called back. That includes Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty in federal court in August to campaign-finance violations and other charges, and prominent Trump supporter Erik Prince, who met with Russians during the campaign. Prince was defiant in an interview with the intelligence panel in December. 'I believe there are those who were less than candid with us,' says Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democratic member of the committee, referring to Cohen and Prince, among others. Democrats have said they also want additional documents that Republicans refused to subpoena. ___ PUBLIC HEARINGS House Republicans limited their Russia investigation to the intelligence panel, which traditionally conducts most of its business in secret. Democrats would probably spread the investigation over several other committees, opening it up and allowing for public hearings with top Trump officials. Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democratic member of the intelligence panel, says they would try to be more transparent. The Republican investigation was 'a way to keep everything behind closed doors,' he said. Democrats would also push to provide interview transcripts to Mueller, a step Republicans had resisted. The committee recently voted to make most of its Russia transcripts public, but it's unclear when that will happen. ___ DONALD TRUMP JR. Democrats have pushed for more information about the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., and communications with his father and other aides related to a June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. According to phone records he provided to Congress, Trump Jr. had a call with a blocked number several days before the meeting took place; he said he didn't recall with whom. Democrats want to subpoena additional phone records because Trump Jr. has insisted he didn't alert his father to the meeting beforehand. They also want more information about his communications with former Trump communications aide Hope Hicks. Democrats may also look into direct messages on Twitter between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, the website that released emails from top Democratic officials during the 2016 campaign. Trump Jr. has released those direct messages, in which the website urged him to publicize its leaks. ___ TRUMP'S TAXES Democrats in the majority would probably push for the release of Trump's tax returns, a task that would be up to the House Ways and Means Committee. Trump broke a decadeslong tradition by declining to release his returns during the campaign. The Republican House and Senate have declined to ask for them. Lawmakers hope that access to Trump's taxes would reveal information about his financial entanglements with other countries, among other things. But getting them may not be easy. The tax-writing committees in Congress can obtain tax records from the IRS under the law, but it is possible the Trump administration would refuse to hand them over, prompting a court fight. ___ ISSUES RELATED TO COLLUSION Since Republicans closed the Russia investigation earlier this year, Democrats on the intelligence panel have conducted some of their own investigations despite not having subpoena power. They have made some progress in probing Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm once employed by the Trump campaign that improperly gained access to data from millions of social media profiles. They have also investigated Republican operative Peter W. Smith, who worked to obtain Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails from Russian hackers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Smith died shortly after talking to the paper. ___ PROTECTION FOR ROBERT MUELLER A Democratic House would probably try to move legislation to protect special counsel Mueller. Trump has repeatedly criticized Mueller and his investigation, calling it a witch hunt. Prompted by concerns that Trump may try to fire Mueller, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation in April that would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek expedited judicial review of a firing. The bill would put into law existing Justice Department regulations that a special counsel can only be fired for good cause. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up the bill in the Senate. But House Democrats would be expected to pass their own special counsel protection bill if they take the majority.
  • President Donald Trump's loyalists here at Florida's premier retirement community fear Andrew Gillum. It has nothing to do with his race, they insist, when asked about the 39-year-old Democrat who could become the state's first African-American governor. Instead, The Villages' deeply conservative residents are convinced a Gillum victory would trigger an era of high crime, higher taxes and moral failing. 'He'll kill everything that's good about Florida,' says Talmadge Strickland, a 66-year-old retired firefighter wearing a 'Trump 2020' baseball cap at a rally for Gillum's opponent. 'He will hurt us; he will physically hurt us with his socialist mentality.' In an era defined by deep political partisanship, there's perhaps no state where the divide runs deeper than Florida, which is in the grip of a fierce culture clash over guns, race, climate change and the president. Gillum sits at the center of the melee, his campaign a proxy for the larger fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump's GOP. Gillum's fate is inexorably linked to fellow Democrats whose success could determine control of Congress. That's especially true for three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who could benefit from Gillum's appeal among young voters and minorities. As early voting begins in Florida this week, that link is tenuous. 'New voters and infrequent voters are everything to us winning,' Gillum told The Associated Press when asked about his impact on Nelson's race. 'I think they will vote for both of us, and that will be to his benefit.' Young people and minorities are traditionally among the least reliable voters, particularly in midterm elections. Meanwhile, white voters in place like The Villages are lining up behind his opponent, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis. The electorate in Florida this year is especially unpredictable due to an unusual collision of events: a massive hurricane, the nation's deadliest high school shooting and Gillum's historic candidacy. DeSantis has benefited from Trump's occasional backing on social media, including after the debate. And Gillum is scheduled to campaign this week alongside former Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In the interview, he noted he's been in touch with former President Barack Obama, who may campaign on his behalf. Gillum acknowledged some Florida voters might oppose him because of his race, but insisted 'that voter is not the majority of the people in our state.' During Sunday night's CNN debate, he accused his Republican opponent of fanning racial animus ever since DeSantis first warned Florida voters not to 'monkey this up' by electing Gillum. 'The 'monkey up' comment said it all,' Gillum charged. 'He has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin. The truth is, you know what, I'm black. I've been black all my life. So far as I know, I will die black.' Meanwhile, a small, but significant portion of the state's Republican base remains consumed by recovery efforts almost two weeks after Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle. The secretary of state extended early voting hours, but both sides expect a drop in turnout across the heavily-Republican region as residents struggle without electricity and lodging in many cases. Nelson's challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, has yet to resume any campaign activities since the storm made landfall. The state's other trauma — a school shooting earlier this year that left 17 students and staff dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — looms over the races. Backed by the fortune of Democratic billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, Florida's young people are fighting to be heard. Those rallying behind Gillum in recent days include 16-year-old Sari Kaufman, a Parkland survivor who spent Sunday canvassing for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. In an interview, Kaufman suggested young people are more excited about Gillum than Nelson, particularly because of Gillum's status as a younger candidate running statewide for the first time. 'If he is successful and other candidates are successful, it will mean that my fellow classmates didn't die in vain,' Kaufman said. African-American leaders are also working to reverse their community's typical drop-off in midterm elections. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said his organization is 'microfocused' on boosting black turnout this fall. A statewide canvassing effort is underway across Florida, where organizers hope to bump black turnout by at least 5 percent from four years ago. It was easy to find evidence of Gillum's influence among so-called low-propensity voters in recent days, as activists from more than a half dozen competing groups scoured the state to ensure they cast ballots. Anne Fazio, a 19-year-old Jacksonville student, was among thousands of people contacted at home over the weekend by the Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity's massive door-knocking push. Standing at her front door, she didn't hesitate when a conservative volunteer asked whether she was going to vote. 'I'm voting for Andrew Gillum,' Fazio said, praising his support for gun control and expanding Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income residents. Asked by the AP whether she would support Nelson, she said: 'I think I'll probably vote for him — he's a Democrat, right?' The Republican DeSantis is making little effort to expand his coalition as he embraces Trump and his policies in a state the president carried by 1 point. DeSantis vowed during Sunday's debate to work closely with the Trump administration, while noting that Gillum has called for Trump's impeachment. 'You've got to be able to work with the administration,' DeSantis declared. He also dismissed Parkland students' calls for stronger efforts to reduce gun violence when asked about his opposition to modest gun control measures passed by Florida's Republican-led legislature in the wake of the Parkland shooting. DeSantis said local law enforcement and school officials 'let them down' by not acting sooner to detain the shooter and address his mental health issues sooner. Meanwhile, a flood of money is shaping the Florida elections. Since the beginning of September alone, each side has dumped more than $44 million into television advertising for the governor's race. While that may be the most in the country, it's a fraction of the spending in Florida's Senate contest, according to political operatives tracking media spending. Paced by the Scott campaign's $50 million, the Republican side has invested nearly $79 million in television spending since April compared to Democrats' $49 million behind Nelson. Back at The Villages, the attack ads against Gillum appeared to be resonating with retirees gathered for a Saturday DeSantis appearance that drew about 400. 'He scares me, I'm sorry,' 75-year-old retiree Suzanne Zimmerman, a member of Villagers for Trump, said of Gillum. His race has nothing to do with her fear, she said. 'Although Gillum does say that there are too many white men in government,' Zimmerman added. 'So that's unfortunate that he is actually a racist.
  • With Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. already visiting the state and the president himself coming Monday, Ted Cruz is convening a veritable parade of Republican powerbrokers in the final weeks of the Texas Senate campaign to ensure Democrat Beto O'Rourke doesn't upset him. O'Rourke is countering with the opposite. He's blowing off the Democratic Party's political luminaries and instead cranking up the cool — rocking with Willie Nelson, securing shout-outs from star rappers and road-tripping with a 38-year-old Kennedy whose family name still has its mystique. While their approaches seem divergent, both candidates are opting to sacrifice one goal to accomplish another. They're trying to fire up the loyalists they see as key to victory, even if it means slighting moderates and undecided voters — energizing the right and the left while ignoring the middle. 'There's a common misconception that elections are mostly decided by so-called 'swing voters,'' O'Rourke's campaign wrote in its 'Plan to Win.' Cruz has for months noted that there are more Texas Republicans than Democrats, so if he guards against conservative complacency, he wins. Both may be onto something. A recent Quinnipiac University poll that showed Cruz leading the race by 9 points also found that, among likely Texas voters who could name a Senate candidate, 96 percent had made up their minds. 'There are many of us who argue there is no middle and there are no swing voters left,' said Texas Democratic consultant Colin Strother. O'Rourke hasn't completely written off non-Democratic voters, trumpeting bipartisanship at rallies. But he hasn't softened a platform of universal health care, gun control, decriminalizing marijuana and offering a $10,000-per-child federal grant for pre-kindergarten. 'Beto is saying, 'Hey look, you're all welcome here, but this is what I believe,'' Strother said. After spending months hitting rural corners of the state that other Democrats gave up on decades ago, O'Rourke is now largely sticking to reliably blue venues such as college campuses, a Willie Nelson concert in Austin, a Houston show featuring rapper Bun B, Texas-Mexico border concerts and rallies and a Dallas sunrise jog. The recent Austin City Limits festival was so choked with 'Beto for Texas' T-shirts that it sometimes seemed the lanky Senate hopeful was headlining along with Metallica. And as R&B star Khalid won an American Music Award this month, he declared from the stage, 'Shout-out to Beto.' 'He's representing everyone and not just a certain group of people,' said 18-year-old Anoosha Adtani, who joined a line of students snaking out the door when O'Rourke appeared at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Not on the schedule are ex-Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State John Kerry, though they've pitched in on Democratic campaigns elsewhere. Liberal powerhouses like Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also haven't stumped for O'Rourke. Instead, he's brought in Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is enough of a greenhorn nationally that Cruz has made fun of him, laughing about how Kennedy drove O'Rourke between events and saying, 'It may be the first time in history anyone's ever asked a Kennedy to drive.' That raised in peoples' minds the deadly, 1969 car crash on Chappaquiddick Island involving Sen. Ted Kennedy, Joe's great-uncle. With his party controlling the White House and Congress, Cruz now touts a Republican status quo he attempted to torch as a tea party firebrand. In addition to the Trump administration's top brass, fellow Texan John Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, hosted a Washington fundraiser for Cruz despite their past policy clashes. Fox News host Sean Hannity and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now Trump's secretary of energy, also campaigned for him this weekend. Still, George W. Bush lives in Dallas but isn't hitting the trail on Cruz's behalf, underscoring how he'd rather have Trump supporters than traditional, country-club Republicans. A three-term El Paso congressman, O'Rourke has stayed within striking distance despite his party not winning any of Texas' nearly 30 statewide offices for almost 25 years. His crunch-time strategy is to mobilize 5.5 million people who 'are very likely to vote for Beto if they vote, but who might not vote unless we contact them.' That means prioritizing those who moved to Texas from other states and often settled in urban areas, and millennials who are 'the most diverse, most progressive generation in American history,' according to his playbook. Chairman James Dickey said the Republican Party of Texas has been similarly contacting new and past sympathetic voters for months, not just in the race's final weeks. 'We have a very clear process that has worked very well,' Dickey said. Texas added 1.6-plus million registered voters since 2014's midterm elections, with young voters helping to power that surge. But Austin Republican analyst Derek Ryan noted that four years ago, only about 14 percent of the newly registered voters under 20 wound up casting ballots. O'Rourke, though, insists that courting youth is no fool's errand. 'Young people have been coming out to our events in record numbers,' he said after the San Antonio event. 'I'm going where the leaders are.' ___ Sign up for 'Politics in Focus,' a weekly newsletter showcasing the AP's best political reporting from around the country leading up to the midterm elections: https://bit.ly/2ICEr3D
  • Authorities said they are continuing the search for the second of two teenage suspects in connection with the fatal weekend shooting of a police officer near a school northeast of Atlanta. Authorities said Sunday they believe 18-year-old Tafahree Maynard fatally shot Officer Antwan Toney a day earlier as he checked a report of a suspicious car parked near a school in the Snellville area, Gwinnett County Police said in a statement. Maynard remained at large early Monday and should be considered armed and dangerous, police said. He faces charges of aggravated assault and felony murder. The shooting happened near a middle school about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta in the Snellville area of Gwinnett County. 'Tafahree Maynard needs to turn himself in,' Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers said at a weekend news conference. Police said Maynard wasn't at a Gwinnett County house Sunday evening where a SWAT team deployed to serve a search warrant for him. An official statement appealed to the public for tips leading to Maynard's whereabouts. A second suspect, 19-year-old Isaiah Pretlow, was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a firearm at an officer during the pursuit after Toney's fatal shooting, police had said earlier. Toney died at a hospital over the weekend from his wounds, police said. The 30-year-old from Southern California had been with the Gwinnett County Police Department for nearly three years, serving in his first police job. 'The people that worked with Officer Toney on a daily basis recalled a very jovial person who was dedicated to his job and dedicated to his community,' Ayers said. Toney and other officers initially responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle near a school, police said. When the officers approached, someone in the vehicle opened fire and Toney was hit. Then the vehicle sped off. According to police, Pretlow drove the vehicle away after the shooting, crashed a short distance away and fled along with other occupants. An officer searching the area later encountered Pretlow about 3 p.m. Pretlow pointed a gun at the officer, who fired shots, according to a statement. Pretlow was not hit and fled into some woods. He was subsequently taken into custody by U.S. Marshals.
  • Did you know you could determine someone’s sexuality by looking at their hands? That’s what a new report has claimed.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom recently conducted a small study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal, to determine the link between sexuality and length of fingers. To do so, they examined 14 sets of male identical twins and 18 sets of female identical twins with different sexual orientations. They then observed the variations of their hands, particularly measuring the length of the ring and index fingers. >> Related: Why are my fingers and toes always so cold? “Because identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, can differ in their sexual orientations, factors other than genetics must account for the differences,” the authors wrote in a statement. After analyzing the results, they found that bisexual and lesbian sisters had different size ring and index fingers, which they said was usually a male trait. “Typically in women the index (second) and ring (fourth) fingers are of similar length, while in men there is a greater difference between the two,” the team said. On the other hand, the heterosexual sisters had similar size ring and index fingers. >> Related: Study: Regular marijuana users have more sex As for the male siblings, they said the bisexual and gay brothers also had different size ring and index fingers, while the heterosexual ones had the similar size ring and index fingers.  The scientists believe the association between finger length and sexuality is related to the hormone and testosterone levels babies are exposed to in the womb. >> Related: Why are my fingers and toes always so cold? “Research suggests that our sexuality is determined in the womb and is dependent on the amount of male hormone we are exposed to or the way our individual bodies react to that hormone, with those exposed to higher levels of testosterone being more likely to be bisexual or homosexual,” the authors concluded. “Because of the link between hormone levels and difference in finger lengths, looking at someone’s hands could provide a clue to their sexuality.”