WASHINGTON — The former superintendent of a wastewater treatment facility in Rochester, Ind., was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in South Bend, Ind., to serve one year in prison for falsifying discharge monitoring reports that concealed violations of the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department announced.
Herbert L. Corn was sentenced to one year in prison on each of five counts to be served concurrently. Following the prison sentence, Corn was ordered to serve one year of supervised release, which includes three months of home detention, on each count to run concurrently.
On June 16, 2009, Corn pleaded guilty to a five-count felony information charging him with making false statements in discharge monitoring reports submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). Corn admitted that from September 2004 and continuing through May 2007, he submitted at least five reports containing false data for treated water that was discharged from the Rochester Plant into Mill Creek, a tributary of the Tippecanoe River. He served as the former superintendent of the Rochester plant where he worked from 1986 until 2008.
"Today’s prison sentence sends a strong reminder to those who hold the public’s trust to provide accurate information in the course of their responsibilities," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The prosecution in this case demonstrates the coordinated collaboration of federal, state and local officials to investigate and prosecute those violating the nation’s environmental laws."
"Accurate information about pollution discharged from the treatment plant is essential in order to protect both the citizens of Rochester and their environment," said Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of EPA-Criminal Investigation Division. "Violators who submit false reports or bogus data undermine those efforts and they will be vigorously prosecuted."
"Certified wastewater operators are entrusted with the public health and must be held fully accountable to fulfill their duties, including honest and accurate reporting," said IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly. "IDEM inspectors work hard to identify and correct problems, and coordinate with our state and federal partners to ensure the protection of Hoosiers and our environment. We thank the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. EPA’s criminal enforcement division in Chicago for their help in this case."
Under the federal Clean Water Act, which is administered and enforced by IDEM as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), before discharging the waste water it collects to Mill Creek, the Rochester plant must treat the water to meet concentration limits on certain pollutants as set forth in its permit. Three pollutants in the permit that have concentration limits are Escherichia Coli bacteria (E. Coli), Ammonia NH3-N and Carbonaceous Biological Oxygen Demand-5 (CBOD-5). The discharge of pollutants above the concentration limits for these pollutants is a violation of the permit and the Clean Water Act. The Rochester Plant is required to report and certify the results of its discharge sampling on a monthly basis to IDEM.
At sentencing, the court found that Corn made as many as 55 separate falsifications in reports from September 2004 and continuing through May 2007, in which he reported levels on discharge reports that purported levels of E. Coli, Ammonia NH3-N and CBOD-5 that were in compliance with the permit concentration limits, even though Corn knew that the levels were actually higher. Those reports were then submitted to IDEM. In addition, the court found that Corn’s conduct in falsifying discharge reports pre-dated September 2004, although the exact dates and times are unknown.
In addition to being superintendent of the Rochester plant, Corn possessed a state of Indiana Class III license as a waste water treatment operator. Corn also held the position of president of the Indiana Water Environment Association, a sewage industry trade group, and had received several awards for environmental achievements related to sewage treatment. In addition, Corn has taught courses on waste water treatment. As a result of the offense conduct, Corn’s Class III license has been revoked by IDEM.
The criminal charges arose from a criminal investigation jointly undertaken by the Criminal Investigation Division of the EPA and the IDEM Office of Criminal Investigation, which are part of the Northern District of Indiana Environmental Crimes Task Force. Members of the task force include:
The Task Force encourages citizens in the Northern District of Indiana to report environmental crimes to 312-886-9872 or at the Web site http://www.epa.gov/compliance/complaints/index.html.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Toi Denise Houston, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Mucha and Environmental Crimes Section Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner.