A worker at the former SK Hand Tool Corporation manufacturing facility in Defiance, Ohio was charged with negligently failing to ensure that wastewater was pretreated prior to its discharge into the City of Defiance sewer system
William Zirkle was charged with negligently failing to ensure that wastewater was pretreated prior to its discharge into the City of Defiance sewer system, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of O-hio, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, and Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Zirkle worked at the former SK Hand Tool Corporation manufacturing facility in Defiance, Ohio. That facility discharged wastewater into the City of Defiance sewer system and was considered an industrial user, according to the information.
Prior to discharging wastewater from the facility into the sewer system, the wastewater was processed using a pretreatment system. It is alleged that on April 21, 2008, there was an accident and approximately 210 gallons of chrome plating solution spilled into a cement pit near the pretreatment system.
Once becoming aware of the spill, Zirkle took steps to address the spill by adding chemicals and attempting to treat it in the pretreatment system instead of pumping the spilled chrome solution from the pit into a holding tank for proper disposal, according to the information. It is charged that because of Mr. Zirkle’s negligence improperly treated wastewater was discharged into the sewer system.
The high concentration chrome wastewater caused damage to the treatment processes at the City of Defiance sewage treatment plant.
The charge is a misdemeanor in violation of the Clean Water Act.
“Clean, fresh water is one of our region's greatest resources and will will do everything in our power to ensure they are protected," Dettelbach said.
“We have environmental laws to protect our health and care for natural resources, and my office, along with other agencies, will remain vigilant in helping to investigate and prosecute when those laws are broken,” DeWine said.
“Our natural resources must be protected from illegal discharges,” Ashe said. “This prosecution sends a clear message that pollution treatment systems must be operated lawfully to ensure the protection of public utilities and the environment.”
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to each case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas A. Karol and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson following an investigation by the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Office of Special Investigations, all members of the Northwest Ohio Environmental Crimes Task Force.
An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.