Skip to main content
Press Release

St. Lawrence County Man Pleads Guilty to Clean Water Act Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York
Michael J. Ward Falsified Data and Caused the Discharge of Polluted Water from a Paper Mill in Norfolk, New York

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK - Michael J. Ward, age 54, of Gouverneur, New York, pled guilty today in federal court in Binghamton to three felony counts of violating the Clean Water Act, announced Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith; Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) in New York; and Joe Schneider, Director of Law Enforcement, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

In pleading guilty, Ward admitted that between January 2013 and September 2015, while employed as the Technical Director in charge of environmental compliance at the APC Paper Group paper mill in Norfolk, New York, he caused the paper mill to violate its Clean Water Act permit by discharging wastewater containing excessive levels of biochemical oxygen demand (“BOD”) into the Raquette River. BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen necessary for microorganisms in the water to break down organic material. BOD levels also provide an index for measuring the effect discharged wastewater will have on the body of fresh water receiving it. In this case, the paper mill’s Clean Water Act permit restricted the amount of BOD that could be discharged through wastewater. Ward admitted in court today that he was responsible for monitoring, calculating, and reporting the paper mill’s compliance with its Clean Water Act permit. He further admitted that he hid and falsified data regarding the BOD levels in the mill’s wastewater discharges, thus allowing the mill to violate its Clean Water Act permit on a regular basis. Additionally, he repeatedly falsified monthly reports to the DEC to hide the continuing Clean Water Act violations. The defendant’s illegal conduct was discovered after he was fired by APC Paper Group for unrelated reasons in the fall of 2015.

The charges to which Ward pled guilty today carry a maximum sentence of up to 3 years in prison, a fine of up to $800,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 1 year. Ward will be sentenced in federal court in Binghamton on January 26, 2018 by Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.

This case was investigated by EPA-CID and the New York State DEC, Division of Law Enforcement and Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation Unit (BECI), and it is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry.

Updated September 8, 2017