Wastewater Contractor Charged with Conspiracy and Clean Water Act Violations
A water service contractor and two of its employees were charged with and felony violations of the Clean Water Act in a 26-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
United Water Services Inc., the former contract operator of the Gary Sanitary District wastewater treatment works in Gary, Ind., and Dwain L. Bowie, and Gregory A. Ciaccio, have been charged with manipulating daily wastewater sampling methods by turning up disinfectant treatment levels shortly before sampling, then turning them down shortly after sampling.
United Water Services entered into a 10-year contract to operate the Gary Sanitary District wastewater treatment works in 1998 for $9 million annually. United Water’s contract was renewed in May 2008. As contract operator, United Water handled the operation and maintenance of the treatment works, and was responsible for environmental compliance. To ensure compliance with the discharge permit, United Water was required to take periodic representative wastewater samples, including a daily sample to determine the concentration of E. coli bacteria in the wastewater.
According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to tamper with E. coli monitoring methods by turning up levels of disinfectant dosing prior to E. coli sampling. The indictment states that the defendants would avoid taking E. coli samples until disinfectants had reached elevated levels, which in turn were expected to lead to reduced E. coli levels. Immediately after sampling, the indictment alleges, the defendants turned down disinfectant levels, thus reducing the amount of treatment chemicals they used.
Dwain Bowie was United Water’s Project Manager for the Gary facility beginning in 2002, and was in charge of the Gary operation. Gregory Ciaccio joined Bowie’s staff in July 2003, and eventually was made the Plant Superintendent, in charge of day-to-day operations.
The Clean Water Act makes it a felony to tamper with required monitoring methods at a permitted facility like the Gary Sanitary District. If convicted, Bowie and Ciaccio face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy count and two years on each of the Clean Water Act counts, as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. The company may also face fines and/or probation.
The case was investigated by the Northern District of Indiana Environmental Crimes Task Force, including agents from the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI and the Indiana State Police. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.