San Joaquin County Biodiesel Firm and Employees Charged with Clean Water Act Violations
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a 17-count indictment on Thursday against American Biodiesel Inc. and two employees at its biodiesel fuel manufacturing plant in Stockton for Clean Water Act violations, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
American Biodiesel Inc., registered in San Joaquin County as Community Fuels, manufactured biodiesel fuel at 809-C Snedeker Avenue, Stockton, on property leased from the Port of Stockton. The company is charged with conspiracy, 12 counts of tampering with monitoring equipment, two counts of unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater, and one count of false statements.
According to the indictment, Christopher Young, 41, of El Dorado Hills, is charged with conspiracy, 12 counts of tampering with monitoring equipment, two counts of unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater, one count of false statements, and one count of witness tampering. The same indictment charges his brother Jeremiah Young, 38, of El Dorado, with conspiracy, eight counts of tampering with monitoring equipment, and two counts of unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater.
The indictment alleges that, from March 2009 through December 2016, Christopher Young was Director of Operations, which is the highest-ranking position at Community Fuels’ manufacturing plant. In this capacity, he directed employees to tamper with pH, and flow and volume monitoring devices to allow Community Fuels to discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of polluted industrial wastewater into the City of Stockton Municipal Utility District sewer in violation of the company’s wastewater discharge permit and in violation of the Clean Water Act. Jeremiah Young, while working as an Assistant Operator for Community Fuels from 2014 to 2016, allegedly participated in the conspiracy and in certain Clean Water Act violations.
Community Fuels’ unpermitted wastewater discharges into the Stockton sewer were allegedly polluted with methanol, glycerin, oils and fats, and acids. Instead of discharging the unpermitted wastewater into the sewer, Community Fuels had represented to the City of Stockton water regulators that it would employ tanker trucks to haul the wastewater to the East Bay Municipal Utility District wastewater treatment plant in Oakland.
The indictment alleges that Christopher Young and Community Fuels made false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an attempt to cover up the long‑term and recurring unlawful wastewater discharges.
The indictment further alleges that Christopher Young attempted to prevent a witness from communicating information relating to the commission of a federal offense to a law enforcement officer.
This case is the product of an investigation by the EPA, San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, City of Stockton Municipal Utilities Department, San Joaquin County Environmental Health Department, Port of Stockton, and California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
If convicted, Christopher Young faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison on the witness tampering count, five years in prison on the conspiracy and false statement counts, three years in prison on the unlawful discharge counts, two years in prison on the counts charging tampering with monitoring equipment, and a maximum total fine of $4,250,000. If convicted, Jeremiah Young faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy count, three years in prison on the unlawful discharge counts, two years in prison on the counts charging tampering with monitoring equipment, and a maximum total fine of $2,500,000. If convicted, Community Fuels faces a maximum $4 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.