Posted in | News | Green Farming | Water | Ecosystems

Wastewater Treatment Company Pleads Guilty to Illegally Discharging Untreated Liquid Wastes

Comprehensive Environmental Solutions, Inc. (CESI), a Nevada corporation which operates an industrial waste treatment and disposal facility in Dearborn, Mich., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts for the Eastern District of Michigan to violating the Clean Water Act and making false statements in connection with illegal discharges of untreated liquid wastes from the facility, announced Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg.

According to the plea agreement and other court records, the facility had a permit to treat liquid waste brought to the facility through a variety of processes and then discharge it to the Detroit sanitary sewer system. The facility contained twelve large above-ground tanks capable of holding more than 10 million gallons of liquid industrial wastes.

During the period from April 2001 to June 2002, facility employees frequently bypassed the facility's treatment system in order to discharge untreated liquid wastes directly to the sanitary sewer system. At the time, the facility had no operable equipment to treat incoming liquid wastes and the 10 million gallon tank farm was full, with virtually no capacity to store additional liquid wastes. Nonetheless, the facility continued to accept about 13 million gallons of liquid industrial waste-streams for purported treatment and disposal. Because the facility had no space available for this additional waste, nor equipment to treat it, CESI discharged to the sanitary sewer all of this untreated liquid waste in violation of the Clean Water Act, the facility's permit and the consent order under which the facility operated.

"As part of today's guilty plea, CESI has agreed to take steps to ensure further environmental violations, such as continued illegal wastewater discharges, do not occur again. Stopping these illegal discharges will result in a cleaner, safer environment for the citizens of Dearborn," said Assistant Attorney General Tenpas.

Acting U.S. Attorney Berg said, "The federal regime of environmental laws is in place to protect the public and prevent unlawful discharges into our water system. Today's plea demonstrates the commitment of my office, U.S. EPA and the FBI to pursue possible violations of the environmental laws as well as attempts to conceal such violations."

As part of its guilty plea, CESI has agreed to pay a fine of $600,000, plus an additional $150,000 to fund a community service project for the benefit, preservation and restoration of the environment and ecosystems in the waters adjoining the Rouge River and the Detroit River. In addition to accepting responsibility today for its past misconduct, CESI, which is under new management, has taken a number of steps during the last several years to install new equipment and systems to treat liquid industrial waste before it is discharged to the sewer.

As a condition of probation, CESI has agreed to abide by the terms of a consent order with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the cleanup of the facility, at an estimated cost of about $1.5 million, which includes the proper disposal of the liquid waste previously stored in the facility's tank farm. CESI has further agreed to develop, adopt, implement and fund an environmental management system/compliance plan at its facility, which will include an annual program to train employees on environmental compliance and ethics to ensure that all CESI employees understand the requirements imposed by the facility's discharge permit.

The case was investigated by Special Agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Criminal Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow, Senior Counsel James Morgulec of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, and U.S. EPA Regional Criminal Enforcement Counsel David Mucha.

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