Pretreatment requirements for industrial wastewater users are often thought of as a local issue. Local municipal wastewater treatment utilities, known as Publicly Owned Treatment Works (“POTWs”), are required as part of their national pollutant discharge elimination system (“NPDES”) permits to regulate wastewater discharges from industrial users under the national pretreatment program. See Clean Water Act (“CWA”) Section 307(b); 40 C.F.R. pt. 403. But as one company—and two of its employees—recently learned, the pretreatment program can be enforced by federal, state, or local agencies—and criminal penalties can be levied.
As EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, & Training announced in its Environmental Crimes Bulletin for May – July, 2019, American Biodiesel, Inc. (registered in San Joaquin County as Community Fuels) in Stockton, Calif., was sentenced on July 6, 2019 for violations of the CWA pretreatment program. American Biodiesel admitted to violating the City of Stockton’s permitting regulations, and to tampering with pH recordings and flow meters resulting in underreporting acid and pollutant levels in excess of the City’s regulations. American Biodiesel was sentenced to three years’ probation, including various reporting and monitoring conditions, and was fined $401,000 and ordered to pay $256,206 in restitution to local authorities.
Two employees were also indicted in the case, which was investigated by federal, state and local authorities and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Christopher Young, the Director of Operations at American Biodiesel’s Stockton plant, faces conspiracy charges, twelve counts of tampering with monitoring equipment, two counts of unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater, one count of false statements and one count of witness tampering. His younger brother, Jeremiah Young, the Assistant Operator for Community Fuels, is charged with conspiracy, eight counts of tampering with monitoring equipment and two counts of unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater.
The Youngs each face up to three years imprisonment and a $5,000 to $50,000 per day fine if convicted of knowing violations of the federal pretreatment standards. See 33 U.S.C. § 1319(1)(A) & (2)(A); 40 C.F.R. § 403.