Wastewater Treatment Facility Employees Sentenced for CWA Felonies

April 8, 2011
Investigation resulted after plant discharged untreated wastewater into sewers

Three officials of Ecological Systems Inc. (ESI), an oil reclamation company that operated a centralized waste treatment facility in Indianapolis, were sentenced in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, for felony violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The prosecution stemmed from ESI's intentional discharges of untreated wastewater and storm water from its facility directly into the Indianapolis sewer system.

Joe Biggio, ESI's former operations manager and executive vice president, was sentenced to three years probation, a $15,000 fine and community service after pleading guilty to two counts of CWA criminal violations and one federal false statements statute violation. Biggio's community service requires him to lecture graduate students seeking degrees in business management on his case and criminal conviction.

Mike Milem, former operations manager, was sentenced to six months home detention, three years probation, a $5,000 fine and community service after he pleading guilty to one criminal violation of the CWA. Similarly to Biggio, Milem's community service requires him to lecture students at Indiana colleges on his case and conviction.

Mark Snow, former lab manager of ESI, was sentenced to three years probation, a $5,000 fine and eight hours of community service per month during the duration of the probation after he also pled guilty to one criminal CWA violation.

In addition, all three defendants are prohibited from applying for any environmental license or employment in the environmental field without disclosing their felony convictions to any such licensing board or prospective employer.

The investigation began after the Indiana Department of Environmental Management received complaints from several Indianapolis homeowners that thick, oily wastewater was flowing into their yards from sewer manholes after a heavy rainfall on Feb. 11, 2009. According to EPA, the ESI did not have the capacity to handle the wastewater, so Milem and Snow decided to discharge the untreated water into the sewer system. The discharge continued for approximately eight hours and resulted in a discharge of approximately 300,000 gal of untreated wastewater.

The subsequent investigation revealed that ESI had not been adequately treating the waste it took from customers for reclamation for a significant period of time, in part because major pieces of equipment in the treatment process needed to be repaired or replaced and because storage space was not available at the facility. Investigators also determined that ESI had misrepresented to EPA and Indiana the storage capacity it had to handle such a rainfall event as the one that occurred on February 11, 2009.

Source: U.S. EPA

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