WASHINGTON – A Mobile, Ala., grand jury has indicted a waste disposal company, its president and top manager for offenses involving the illegal disposal of waste into the sewage treatment systems of Mobile and of neighboring municipalities, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
DHS Inc., operating under the name Roto Rooter; its president, Donald Gregory Smith; and manager William Wilmoth Sr. were charged today in a forty-three count indictment with numerous violations of the Clean Water Act and with fraud and conspiracy for having dumped into local sewers thousands of gallons of waste grease and oil that they had been hired to dispose of safely and legally. The indictment recites Mobile’s history of years of sewage overflows, inadequate wastewater treatment and polluting effluent caused by blockages of sewer lines and treatment works with solidified grease.
In response to lawsuits under the Clean Water Act, the city of Mobile entered into a court ordered agreement with EPA under which Mobile implemented a grease control program requiring restaurants and other food service establishments to install grease traps to prevent cooking oils from entering the sewer system. The indictment charges that Roto Rooter, on the representation that it would pump out the grease traps of restaurants and other commercial customers and dispose of their grease waste at legal facilities, instead discharged the grease through grease traps and manholes into the sewer lines that the defendants were being paid to prevent it from entering.
Roto Rooter employee, Michael L. Edington has entered guilty pleas today in federal district court in Mobile to having dumped from Roto Rooter pump trucks numerous loads of grease into area sewer systems between 2004 and 2006, to having falsified grease tracking manifests to make it appear that the waste had been disposed of properly, and to having conspired with the defendants named in the indictment to commit the illegal disposals and fraud with which they have all been charged.
Individuals who are found to have violated the Clean Water Act are subject to up to three years of incarceration per count, twenty years in prison for fraud, as well as monetary penalties.
The matter is being handled by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.
An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until and unless he or she is proven guilty at trial.