Virginia Wastewater Treatment Operators Imprisoned for Violating the Clean Water Act
Source: 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday sentenced Kenneth Hinkley and Alexander Lapteff for criminal violations of the Clean Water Act.

Hinkley, 42, of Stafford, Va., and Lapteff, 66, of Nokesville, Va., were sentenced in federal court by Judge Henry Hudson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Lapteff was sentenced to 36 months of imprisonment, payment of a $5,000 fine and one year of supervised release, and was prohibited from future employment operating a wastewater treatment plant or providing related laboratory sampling and testing services to such treatment facilities. Judge Hudson increased Lapteff's sentence admonishing the defendant for abusing his advanced educational background and being a rogue operator who breached his trust to protect the environment. Lapteff was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshall to begin his incarceration.

Hinkley was sentenced to 11 months of imprisonment despite being deemed "lesser culpable" by Judge Hudson. Judge Hudson also sentenced Hinkley to one year of supervised release, a $5,000 fine, 50 hours of community service and occupational restrictions similar to those imposed on Lapteff. He was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons by December 8, 2003.

On July 24, 2003, following a three-day trial in Richmond, Va., a federal jury found Lapteff guilty of one count of negligently failing to properly operate and maintain a wastewater treatment facility in Christchurch, Va., three counts of making false statements in the facility's log book, two counts of making false statements in monthly discharge monitoring reports submitted to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and one count of taking and withholding the facility's monitoring records.

The charges stemmed from the mismanagement of the wastewater treatment facility at Christchurch School in Middlesex County, Va. On May 9, 1997, Christchurch School hired Hinkley's company, Analytech, Inc., a wastewater treatment contract, operations and laboratory analysis firm in Woodbridge, Va., to run the school's sewage plant. From May 1997 to March 2002, Hinkley and Lapteff systematically neglected the operation and maintenance of the plant, causing the discharge of sludge and chlorine into a tributary of the Rappahannock River.

In addition, Lapteff made repeated false entries in the facility's log books. During a billing dispute, Lapteff removed the log books, and he and Hinkley later used them as leverage in an attempt to obtain payment from the school.

On July 11, 2003, Hinkley pleaded guilty to knowingly violating the Clean Water Act. The maximum penalty for this offense is a term of three years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000, and one year of supervised release. Hinkley also agreed to not participate in the ownership or management of any business activity involving the operation or maintenance of a wastewater or drinking water facility, or provide related laboratory sampling and testing services to such treatment facilities. He also agreed to surrender his Class I wastewater treatment license issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The case was the result of a joint investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's office.

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