Dickson-Based Grease Hauling Company And Its President Plead Guilty To Violating The Clean Water Act
Southern Grease Company, a grease hauling company based in Dickson, Tennessee, and its president, George Butterworth, 75, of Dickson, pleaded guilty today to charges arising from the illegal disposal of waste grease into municipal sewer systems, announced David Rivera, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Specifically, Southern Grease and Butterworth pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act, and making false statements to agents with the Environmental Protection Agency. Southern Grease Company also pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, arising from its fraudulent promises to customers and municipalities regarding the disposal of waste grease.
“The United States Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners are committed to vigorously prosecuting those who knowingly violate environmental laws,” said United States Attorney Rivera. “This case should send a message that corporations and corporate officers that pursue profit at the expense of municipal resources and the public’s right to a clean environment will face serious felony convictions as well as significant financial penalties.”
In a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger, the defendants acknowledged the following: Southern Grease contracted with restaurants and other customers in Tennessee and Kentucky to collect and dispose of the customers’ waste grease, otherwise known as FOG (Fats, Oils and Grease) waste. From approximately September 2011 through December 2013, Southern Grease, at the direction of Butterworth, charged its customers for the collection and proper disposal of waste grease, but failed to dispose of the collected grease at an appropriate facility as promised. Instead, Southern Grease illegally discharged waste grease into grease interceptors that were connected to the municipal sewer systems. This illegal dumping of grease caused damage to municipal sewer systems, including by blocking pipes and by clogging the operation of pump stations. For example, the defendants admitted that, in December 2013, it dumped waste grease into a grease interceptor in Clarksville, Tennessee, which resulted in the obstruction of pipes within the Clarksville sewer system and damage to a Clarksville pumping station, the operation of which was interrupted for cleaning and repairs.
The defendants also admitted providing false information to municipalities and making false statements to EPA agents regarding the final disposal location of the waste grease collected by Southern Grease.
In December 2014 federal agents seized more than $391,000 that had been involved in or derived from federal criminal offenses relating to the illegal dumping of waste grease by Southern Grease.
Last month, George McGee, 51, of Dickson, also pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, to conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act, and to making false statements to agents with the EPA. McGee had previously served as Operations Manager for Southern Grease.
Butterworth and McGee each face up to 5 years in prison for each count of conviction, as well as a criminal fine. Southern Grease faces criminal forfeiture as well as maximum criminal fines of up to $250,000 on three counts of conviction and up to $50,000 per day of violation of the Clean Water Act. The defendants will also be sentenced to pay restitution to the City of Clarksville and Dickson County. All will be sentenced by Judge Trauger on September 14, 2015.
The case was investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Abely.