Environmental Protection Agency and FBI agents raided the ammunition company USA Brass over alleged “environmental violations” early Thursday morning.
NBC Montana was tipped off by witnesses that federal investigators were there until at least 4 a.m. on Thursday. Federal agents could be seen going through the company’s building and taking items to a truck parked outside. EPA lead criminal investigator Bert Marsden said that the agency was looking into alleged “environmental violations” by USA Brass.
“We are investigating alleged violations of environmental law,” Marsden said on Thursday. “An investigation takes as long as it takes, and I can’t provide any details as it relates to that.”
“I can make a statement that there is no immediate threat to the public or the community at this time,” said Marsden.
It’s unclear exactly what the environmental violations were, but USA Brass has come under fire from federal agencies before for lead exposure. USA Brass cleans and resells used ammunition casings, and NBC Montana reports that local health officials found elevated levels of lead in the blood of 22 current and former employees.
Last September, the company was fined more than $45,000 by the U.S. Labor Department for 10 serious violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also found that USA Brass has overexposed workers to lead and failed to “provide basic safeguards to reduce lead exposure, including breathing protection and protective clothing,” reports NBC Montana.
“The toxic effects of occupational exposure to lead have been well known for a long time, but this employer did not have basic safeguards to protect workers against this hazard,” Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings, said last September.
It’s still unclear whether or not EPA and FBI agents were also looking into lead exposure issues. An OSHA inspection in March actually found that the company complied with federal requirements for several months, apparently learning from its mistake last year.
The company said it would reopen on Friday morning.