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Press Release

Owner of Oil Chem Inc. Sentenced for Clean Water Act Violation

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The president and owner of Oil Chem Inc. was sentenced today to 12 months in prison for violating the Clean Water Act stemming from illegal discharges of landfill leachate — totaling more than 47 million gallons — into the city of Flint sanitary sewer system over an eight and a half year period.

Robert J. Massey, 70, of Brighton, Michigan, pleaded guilty on Jan. 14, to a criminal charge of violating the Clean Water Act. According to court records, Oil Chem, located in Flint, Michigan, processed and discharged industrial wastewaters to Flint’s sewer system. The company held a Clean Water Act permit issued by the city of Flint, which allowed it to discharge certain industrial wastes within permit limitations. The city’s sanitary sewers flow to its municipal wastewater treatment plant, where treatment takes place before the wastewater is discharged to the Flint River. The treatment plant’s discharge point for the treated wastewater was downstream of the location where drinking water was taken from the Flint River in 2014 to 2015.

According to the plea agreement filed in federal court, Oil Chem’s permit prohibited the discharge of landfill leachate waste. Landfill leachate is formed when water filters downward through a landfill, picking up dissolved materials from decomposing trash. Massey signed and certified Oil Chem’s 2008 permit application and did not disclose that his company had been and planned to continue to receive landfill leachate, which it discharged to the sewers untreated. Nor did Massey disclose to the city when Oil Chem started to discharge this new waste stream, which the permit also required. Massey directed employees of Oil Chem to begin discharging the leachate at the close of business each day, which allowed the waste to flow from a storage tank to the sanitary sewer overnight.

From January 2007 through October 2015, Massey arranged for Oil Chem to receive 47,824,293 gallons of landfill leachate from eight different landfills located in Michigan. One of the landfills was found to have polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in its leachate. PCBs are known to be hazardous to human health and the environment.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin of the Eastern District of Michigan thanked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division as well as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources-Law Enforcement Division-Environmental Investigations Section and Coast Guard Investigative Service for their work in this investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ann Nee and Jules DePorre of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and ENRD Senior Counsel Kris Dighe.

Updated April 4, 2024

Press Release Number: 21-446