Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results:
FY2006 Water Case Highlights
FY2006 Annual Results Topics
Aging municipal sewer systems and urban storm water runoff are significant sources of pollutants causing problems to our nation's waterways. Overflows of raw sewage from sanitary sewer systems contribute to contamination of drinking water sources and other environmental and health concerns and cause beach and shellfish bed closures. In addition, urban storm water runoff from municipal separate storm sewer systems and construction sites can introduce a variety of harmful pollutants including bacteria, organic nutrients, pesticides, hydrocarbons, sediment, oil and grease into rivers, lakes and streams. Ensuring effective and enforceable solutions to these problems has been an EPA enforcement priority since 1998. In FY2006, EPA concluded numerous enforcement actions eliminating and preventing millions of gallons of polluted overflows and run-off from entering waters.
Criminal Enforcement Cases
Many older municipalities’systems depend on single-pipe “combined sewer systems” designed to carry both storm water runoff and sewage to the treatment facility. When the capacity of combined systems is exceeded during heavy rainfall or snow melt, a mixture of storm water, household sewage and industrial wastewater overflows untreated through sewer outfalls (CSOs) into rivers and lakes. These overflows may also back up through storm water drains onto streets, yards and into basements. Most municipalities depend on “sanitary sewer systems” which transport sewage and industrial wastewater to sewage treatment plants and have separate storm water collection systems. Like combined systems, sanitary sewer systems can become overwhelmed during wet weather events and experience overflows (SSOs). Both combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows can occur frequently in some municipal systems, reflecting chronic problems.
Often working with states, EPA has concluded major settlements with dozens of the nation’s cities bringing critical systems back into compliance and protecting communities from future harm. In the past ten years, EPA has entered into nearly fifty judicial settlement agreements with municipalities to address CSO and SSO violations. States have participated as co-plaintiffs in almost 70% of these actions. The settlement agreements, when implemented, will result in the reduction of billions of gallons of sewage overflows into the nation’s waters. These results are achieved through consent decree provisions requiring comprehensive plans to improve the maintenance and operation of systems to reduce overflows, and through long-term capital construction projects that expand capacity to ensure proper treatment. As a result, EPA achieved a 26 million pound reduction in pollution and an 930 million dollar investment in continued pollution reduction .
The following are major cases concluded during fiscal year 2006: [More Information]
Hartford Metropolitan District will evaluate its sewer collection system and take measures to eliminate raw sewage discharges to the Connecticut River and its tributaries at a cost of $120 million. Hartford Metropolitan District will pay an $850,000 civil penalty, of which $425,000 can be used under Connecticut law to fund environmental projects.
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) will implement additional controls to further reduce overflows to the Charles River. Ongoing construction projects along with newly proposed work will reduce the planned volume of discharges into the Charles from 28 million gallons to a future total of approximately 7.8 million gallons per year.
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) will reduce raw sewage discharges by more than 26 million gallons per year and eliminate basement backups caused by inadequate capacity or poor operation and maintenance at a cost of $200 million. WSSC must also implement emergency response and cleanup programs to address all overflows and will undertake a monitoring program in the Anacostia River. WSSC will pay a $1.1 million civil penalty and also will spend over $4 million on supplemental environmental projects.
The discharge of storm water runoff from construction activities (e.g., land development, road construction) can significantly impair the water quality of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. During construction, earth is compacted, excavated and displaced, and vegetation is removed. These activities increase erosion and runoff, thus increasing the amount of sediment transported to receiving waters. Sediment/siltation is the second leading cause of impairment in assessed rivers and streams, the third leading cause of impairment in assessed lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and the leading cause of degrading wetland integrity. In addition to sediment, as storm water flows over a construction site, it can pick up other pollutants like debris, pesticides, petroleum products, chemicals, solvents, asphalts and acids which may also contribute to water quality problems. Storm water discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) in urbanized areas are a concern because of the high concentration of pollutants they carry. Storm water picks up and transports pollutants into the MS4 where it is discharged (untreated) to waterways. Urban storm water runoff and discharges from storm sewers are a primary cause of impaired water quality in the United States, contributing 13 percent of impaired rivers and streams, 18 percent of impaired lakes, 55 percent of impaired ocean shorelines, and 32 percent of impaired estuaries. In 2006, over 280 million pounds of sediment were reduced from discharging into waterways as a result of federal enforcement actions.
City of Dallas will spend more than $3.5 million to fill staff positions, inspect industrial facilities and construction sites, and improve management systems at several facilities. Dallas also will construct two wetlands, one along the Trinity River and one near the zoo, at an estimated cost of $1.2 million as supplemental environmental projects and will pay an $800,000 civil penalty.
Hawaii Department of Transportation will change its operations to reduce storm water runoff by over four tons per year at a cost of $50 million and will pay a $1 million civil penalty. The settlement also includes a supplemental environmental project expected to cost over $1 million.
Idaho Department of Transportation will pay an $895,000 civil penalty for violations of the Clean Water Act during construction activities and will implement new construction and inspection management practices to prevent future discharges.
James Pflueger will prevent erosion and restore streams at areas damaged by construction activities on Pflueger’s property at a cost of $5.3 million. Pflueger will pay a $2 million civil penalty and spend $200,000 to implement a supplemental environmental project to replace cesspools with improved wastewater systems at residences in a nearby coastal community. Pflueger had previously incurred both civil and criminal penalties under Hawaii law.
Wetlands are a critical natural resource which both promote wildlife and serve as a “buffer zone” to reduce damage from coastal flooding. Extreme violations of wetlands regulations involving illegal dredging and filling or development can result in criminal prosecution.
The following major case was concluded this fiscal year.
Big Hill Acres
In one of the most significant wetlands criminal enforcement prosecutions in United States history, Robert J. Lucas, Jr., Robbie Lucas Wrigley, M. E. Thompson, Jr., and two affiliated corporations, Big Hill Acres, Inc., and Consolidated Investments, Inc., were sentenced for defrauding their customers and destroying wetlands. Robert Lucas was sentenced to nine years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. Robbie Wrigley and M.E. Thompson were each sentenced to 87 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. Big Hill Acres, Inc. was fined $4.8 million and sentenced to five years probation. Consolidated Investments, Inc. was sentenced to 5 years probation and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine. All the defendants were also liable for a total of $1.4 million in restitution for wetlands mitigation credits to offset the wetlands destroyed. All five defendants were convicted after trial on Clean Water Act violations for illegally filling hundreds of acres of wetlands during the development of a 2,600 acre subdivision on property in Vancleave, Mississippi known as Big Hill Acres. All of the defendants were also convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud for then selling hundreds of home sites on the filled-in wetlands despite warnings from public health officials that they were illegally installing septic systems in saturated soil that would contaminate the property. Despite warnings and cease and desist orders from the Corps and the EPA, the defendants continued to improperly install systems that did not conform to state health department regulations in lots that they continued to develop and sell. More than 600 families moved into Big Hill Acres and within several years, a large number of the septic systems failed, causing raw sewage to seep up from the ground and flow across the development. A number of the homes in Big Hill Acres also suffered from slow drainage; brown, foul-smelling water backing up into bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and sinkholes; and standing water on the lots with debris rising to the surface. [More Information]
State and federal regulators rely on comprehensive and accurate reporting of pollutant data from regulated entities in order to ensure protection of the public and the environment. Individuals or companies that knowingly fail to file required reports or who falisfy those reports are subject to criminal prosecution.
The following major case was concluded this fiscal year.
Wayne County Airport
Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act for negligently failing to report a 2001 discharge of turbid water containing airplane de-icing wastes into the Frank and Poet Drain, a waterway that leads to the Detroit River, in violation of the airport’s discharge permit. The Airport Authority will pay a fine of $75,000. An additional $25,000 will be paid as community service to Friends of the Detroit River, a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving, preserving, and restoring the watershed of the Detroit River. The Airport Authority will also serve a four-year term of probation. In April, 2001, the valve connecting the pond to the sanitary sewer became clogged and storm water mixed with de-icing materials. Airport personnel allowed some 25 million gallons of wastewater to flow directly to the Frank and Poet drain. The discharge was not reported to the state of Michigan, as required. The discharge was discovered after a fish kill was observed where the water entered the Detroit River. As a special condition of probation, the airport will undertake and complete a “Force Main” project, which involves construction and use of a force main to connect a pond at the Airport to sanitary sewer lines leading to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s treatment plant in Detroit. The planning of this project has been underway for a number of months, and its cost currently is estimated at approximately $8.5 million. [More Information]
During the last decade, EPA, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI and other components of DOJ, has undertaken an extensive initiative to protect the oceans and coastal waters of the United States from illegal dumping of waste oil, sludge, and other hazardous wastes. The initiative began with an investigation of the cruise ship industry and has extended to other commercial vessels such as cargo ships. In addition to violations of environmental legislation such as the Oil Pollution Act, companies have also been charged with U.S. Criminal Code violations such as conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The following are major cases concluded in FY2006:
Wallenius Ship Management Pte, Ltd., a Singapore shipping company, pled guilty to seven felony counts and will pay a $5 million criminal fine and an additional $1.5 million community service payment for conspiring to obstruct justice, making false statements, and violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships through the use of a concealed “magic pipe” to illegally discharge oil sludge and oil-contaminated waste from one of its ships. The community service projects, to be administered by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, will fund environmental projects in New Jersey. $2.5 million dollars of the fine will be divided evenly among four former crew members who served as "whistleblowers" to bring the violations to the attention of federal authorities. [More Information]
Karlog Shipping Company Ltd., of Piraeus, Greece pled guilty to obstructing justice by concealing the release of oil into the ocean from the Motor Vessel Friendship. Karlog Shipping was ordered to pay a $1 million fine, develop a fleet-wide court-monitored environmental management system and serve three years’ probation. In addition, Panagiotis Kokkinos, the ship’s chief engineer, and Athanasios Chalkias, the ship’s fitter, have also each pleaded guilty in connection with their role in ordering crew members to make false statements to the Coast Guard regarding discharges of oil from the ship. Each man was sentenced on October 6 to 30 days in prison and three years probation. In November 2004, a routine Coast Guard investigation discovered evidence that a bypass pipe had been used on the M/V Friendship to route oil around the ship’s oil-water separator. Evidence also indicated that the pollution was concealed by maintaining a false oil record book that made it appear that the ship was being operated properly. [More Information]
Discharges into Water Bodies
EPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulates the amount of treated and untreated wastewater that can be discharged into the rivers, lakes, streams or other water bodies of the United States.
The following are major cases concluded in FY2006.
The first two cases involved facilities of McWane, Inc. The privately held McWane, Inc.and its divisions are among the largest manufacturers in the world of ductile iron pipe with more than a dozen plants in the United States and Canada. McWane’s products are used primarily for municipal and commercial water and sewer installations.
Atlantic States Pipe Company
Following a seven month trial (the longest environmental trial in history) a New Jersey cast iron pipe manufacturer, Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. (a division of McWane, Inc.) and four company officials were found guilty of committing flagrant abuses of environmental and worker safety laws including, among others, the regular discharge of oil into the Delaware River, concealing serious worker injuries from health and safety inspectors, and maintaining a dangerous workplace that contributed to multiple severe injuries and the death of one employee at the Phillipsburg, New Jersey plant. The jury returned guilty verdicts against five of the six defendants. Sentencing is scheduled for January 2007. [More Information]
McWane, Inc., was sentenced to pay a $5 million criminal fine, perform a $2.7 million community service project and serve five years probation in a case involving illegal discharges to surface waters. Three individual defendants also were assessed fines ranging from $90,000 to $2.5 million along with probation and/or house detention. The defendants were found guilty of environmental crimes connected with the operation of McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company in Birmingham, Alabama, including conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act by discharging industrial wastewater through storm drains into Avondale Creek in Birmingham in violation of their permit. In a related count, McWane Inc., and one defendant were convicted of making a false statement to the EPA. [More Information]
The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) pled guilty to an indictment charging 15 felony counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) through the illegal discharge of pollutants from nine sanitary wastewater treatment plants and five drinking water treatment plants. Under the plea agreement, PRASA is expected to pay a $9 million criminal fine – the largest fine ever paid by a utility for violating the CWA. In addition, a comprehensive civil settlement was reached between PRASA and the United States of America to resolve repeated environmental violations at 61 wastewater treatment plants throughout the Commonwealth. The case is still awaiting formal sentencing by the court. [More Information]
Southeastern Louisiana Water and Sewer
Southeastern Louisiana Water and Sewer (SELA), operates at least 40 sewage treatment facilities throughout St.Tammany Parish, Louisiana. SELA repeatedly violated its NPDES permits, and certain plants were operating without a permit. The discharges from SELA’s plants ultimately flowed into Lake Pontchartrain through various streams and rivers. Despite knowing its plants were overburdened and over-capacitated, thus exceeding their permit limits, SELA continued to add more homes and services to the plants. SELA pled guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act and was sentenced to pay a fine of $2.1 million and serve five years probation. SELA has already expended approximately $12 million additional dollars since the investigation began to correct the violations. [More Information]