A metal plating company in Cleveland was fined $50,000 for making illegal discharges with high concentrations of metals such as chrome and zinc into the sewer system, which in turn, after treatment, discharges to Lake Erie, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Kelly Plating Company, a metal-plating operation located in Cleveland, also agreed to make a $25,000 charitable donation to the Cleveland Foundation, which will be used to improve water quality in Northeast Ohio.
Thomas E. White, of Fairview Park, pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of making improper discharges. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 16.
White was an employee at Kelly Plating and responsible for operating the equipment which reduced the amount of pollutants discharged into the sewer system to an acceptable level. Starting around January 28, 2012, White changed the way wastewater at the Kelly Plating facility was processed. During the weekdays, White ensured that the pollution control equipment was operated properly, according to court documents.
However, on the weekends White bypassed the pollution control equipment and discharged partially treated wastewater and sludge directly into the sewer system. These discharges contained high concentrations of chrome and zinc. This practice ended on May 19, 2012, according to court documents.
"We here in Northeast Ohio know the importance of clean water, both for our economy and our quality of life," Dettelbach said. "We will aggressively investigate and prosecute cases in which people pollute Ohio's streams, rivers and lakes."
"Discharging untreated and partially treated industrial wastewater into the sewer system is illegal and endangers human health, wildlife, and the environment," said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Ohio. "Today's sentence reflects the seriousness of this offense and EPA's commitment to protecting our natural resources and the communities that rely upon them."
"Illegal dumping into Ohio sewers can result in severe consequences both for our environment and for human health," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "My office is committed to bringing to justice violators who knowingly participate in illegal dumping."
"It was through the continuous water quality monitoring of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District that it identified rising levels of pollution at its Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Sewer District then took action and identified the source, and then worked with the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA and the Ohio BCI to determine the extent of the wrongdoing by Kelly Plating," said Julius Ciaccia, NEORSD Chief Executive Officer. "The sentencing of Kelly Plating should be a swift reminder that violating and jeopardizing the health of our waterways will not be tolerated by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District."
"Today's sentencing concludes a successful investigation and prosecution of the discharge of chrome and zinc into waters of the state, which violated the federal Clean Water Act," said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. "I'm proud of the work done by our Office of Special Investigations and all of our partners, including the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District."
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson following an investigation by the Ohio EPA, U.S. EPA, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.