Fuel Bio One, a biodiesel company, had tanks for its wastewater and a storm water pit. Its water discharge permit allowed the company to pump from the storm water pit into Arthur Kill, a waterbody separating New Jersey from Staten Island. The permit did not allow the company to put its wastewater into the storm water pit.
Wastewater Illegally Released into Storm Water Pit
The government alleged that on two occasions the company’s employees released a total of 45,000 gallons of wastewater into the storm water pit. On both occasions, these wastewater releases caused the pump to activate and discharge wastewater into Arthur Kill.
Criminal Conviction, Fine, and Probation
The company pleaded guilty to a felony in federal court for the alleged illegal wastewater discharges. As a result of the plea and conviction, the company was fined $100,000 and placed on probation for five years. The terms of the probation included:
- No further violations of environmental laws or regulations;
- Bi-annual reporting to the court identifying the nature and quantity of all waste generated and the procedures for proper handling and disposal of any waste;
- Implementing employee training based on a plan submitted to the government, with bi-annual reporting to the court on the status of the training and the company paying for any oversight by the court of the training; and
- EPA access to company facilities and records.
The conviction requires the company to pay for any necessary restitution. (This can include costs incurred by the government for laboratories and costs to restore lost natural resources.) Also, some of the company’s contracts may have clauses allowing the customer to cease doing business with the company if the company is ever convicted of a felony.
Employees Must Understand and Comply with Permits
The case is a reminder of the importance of training and communication to ensure employees understand and comply with environmental permits. The company pleaded guilty to knowingly discharging pollution because its employees released wastewater into a pit that was only permitted for storm water.
For a copy of the Department of Justice press release on the case https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/biodiesel-fuel-company-sentenced-releasing-over-45000-gallons-wastewater-arthur-kill-waterway