Waste treatment facility employees sentenced for Clean Water Act felonies

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 5, 2011 -- Three employees of Ecological Systems Inc. (ESI) have been sentenced in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana for intentionally discharging untreated wastewater and stormwater from its facility directly into the Indianapolis sewer system...

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 5, 2011 -- Three employees of Ecological Systems Inc. (ESI) have been sentenced in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana for intentionally discharging untreated wastewater and stormwater from its facility directly into the Indianapolis sewer system.

ESI is an oil reclamation company that operated a centralized waste treatment facility in Indianapolis, IN. The employees -- a vice president, an operations manager, and a lab manager -- were accused of attempting to hide the plant's ability to handle the capacity of waste it accepted, which ultimately caused problems during heavy rainfall.

Joe Biggio, ESI's former Operations Manager and Executive Vice President, was sentenced to three years probation, a $15,000 fine, and community service, which requires him to lecture graduate students seeking degrees in business management regarding 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, which requires him to lecture students in Indiana colleges regarding his case and criminal conviction.

Mark Snow, former Lab Manager of ESI, was sentenced to three years probation, a $5,000 fine and 8 hours of community service per month during the duration of probation.

The three defendants are also prohibited from applying for any environmental license or employment in the environmental field without disclosing their felony convictions.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management initially received complaints from several Indianapolis homeowners that thick, oily wastewater was flowing into their yards from sewer manholes after a heavy rainfall in February 2009, kicking off its investigation.

With insufficient storage capacity to handle wastewater from this type of wet weather event, Milem and Snow discharged the untreated wastewater directly into the Indianapolis sewer system. In total, approximately 300,000 gallons of untreated wastewater was discharged, resulting in an oily sludge-like waste spilling from several sewer manholes into residential yards.

The investigation found that, because of non-functioning equipment and lack of storage space, the company had not been adequately treating waste for a significant period of time.

"The Clean Water Act is designed to protect our nation's water resources, and the defendants' repeated attempts to hide the plant's capacity to handle the wastes that ESI accepted and excess rain water threatened those critical protections," said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of the EPA Criminal Investigation Division's Chicago Area Office. "Today's sentences prove that those who willfully circumvent our nation's laws and put Indiana residents and nearby homeowners at risk will be caught and prosecuted."

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