Georgia Man Accused Of Discharging Waste Into Potomac River- Indicted On Conspiracy, Clean Water Act, False Claims, And Related Charges -
WASHINGTON - Patrick Brightwell, 47, of Bogart, Ga., has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he orchestrated the discharge of waste into the Potomac River at Hains Point from 2009 through 2011, during the same period his company was hired by the National Park Service to clean out the storm water sewer system on the National Mall.
The indictment was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, David G. McLeod, Jr. Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal enforcement program for the Middle Atlantic States, and Teresa Chambers, Chief of the U.S. Park Police.
The eight-count indictment of Brightwell was unsealed following his arrest in Georgia on Dec. 5, 2013. It was filed on Nov. 15, 2013, by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It charges Brightwell with conspiracy, a Clean Water Act violation, false claims, and obstructing the investigation of these offenses by tampering with witnesses and making false statements.
“This indictment alleges that Patrick Brightwell ripped off the taxpayer and polluted the Potomac River by illegally dumping waste he was being paid to dispose of properly,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “According to the indictment, Brightwell tried to cover up his crimes by lying to the police and encouraging someone else to lie as well. This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to enforcing criminal laws designed to protect our precious natural resources.”
“Illegally discharged wastewater presents a danger to public health and a threat to our environment,” said Special Agent in Charge McLeod. “This indictment demonstrates EPA’s resolve to collaborate with our partners to vigorously investigate any credible allegation that a company or individual is treating our nation's environmental laws with contempt.”
“We are pleased to have taken part in the initial discovery and investigation of this crime,” said Chief Chambers. “It is through collaborative efforts such as this that law enforcement sends a strong message that we take environmental crimes seriously and that violators will be prosecuted.”
According to the indictment, from in or about 2008 through 2011, Brightwell’s company had a contract with the National Park Service to clean the storm water sewer system on the National Mall. The contract required that waste removed from the Mall’s storm drains and oil-water separators be disposed of at a proper disposal facility in compliance with District of Columbia regulations and federal law. Brightwell hired employees to work under the contract in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and hired a subcontractor, B&P Environmental LLC, to perform the work in 2011. Each year, Brightwell supervised the work: collecting waste in a vacuum truck, a vehicle designed to gather, store, and transport such waste.
As alleged in the indictment, in 2009, 2010, and 2011, Brightwell directed his employees and subcontractors to discharge waste from the vacuum truck at a storm drain on Hains Point, where the waste would flow into the Potomac River; Brightwell also directed his employees to conceal these discharges from the National Park Service and police.
During this period, Brightwell continued to invoice the National Park Service for cleaning services, but concealed and did not disclose that Brightwell’s company was not properly disposing of the waste, as required by the contract. Brightwell’s company received approximately $533,000 between 2008 and 2011, according to the indictment.
The indictment further alleges that, on June 6, 2011, after the U.S. Park Police stopped the vacuum truck at Hains Point, Brightwell sought to obstruct the investigation by making false statements himself, by telling a subcontractor to make false statements to the police, and by telling an employee to leave the area to prevent police from interviewing him.
If convicted, Brightwell faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each of the conspiracy and false claims charges, as well as a $250,000 fine; a maximum sentence of three years in prison on the Clean Water Act violation and a fine of up to $50,000 per day; a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison on the witness tampering counts; and a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison on the false statement count. The case is assigned to the Honorable James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Earlier this year, the subcontractor, B&P Environmental LLC, and a B&P employee working on June 6, 2011, both pled guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act before the U.S. District Court. As part of their pleas, both the company and employee agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation. Both the company and employee are awaiting sentencing.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by Special Agent Socrates Michael of the EPA and Detective Jon Crichfield of the U.S. Park Police. It is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Lana Pettus of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Hooks of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by Paralegal Specialist Ashleigh Nye of DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section and Paralegal Specialist Krishawn Graham of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.13-414