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Press Release

Fairview Park Man And Cleveland Company Indicted For Making Illegal Discharges Into Sewer System

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio

An indictment was filed in federal court charging Thomas E. White, 49, of Fairview Park, and Kelly Plating Company with making illegal discharges with high concentrations of metals such as chrome and zinc into the sewer system, which in turn, after treatment, discharges to Lake Erie, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

The Kelly Plating Company is a metal plating operation located in Cleveland.  White was an employee at Kelly Plating and responsible for operating the equipment which reduced the amount of pollutants discharged into the sewer system to an acceptable level, according to the indictment.

Starting around January 28, 2012, White changed the way wastewater at the Kelly Plating facility was processed.  During the weekdays, White ensured that the pollution control equipment was operated properly, according to the indictment.

However, on the weekends White bypassed the pollution control equipment and discharged partially treated wastewater and sludge directly into the sewer system.  These discharges contained high concentrations of chrome and zinc.  This practice ended on May 19, 2012, according to the indictment.

“Our greatest resource in Ohio is our clean water,” Dettelbach said. “We will aggressively investigate and prosecute cases in which people pollute Ohio’s streams, rivers and lakes.”

“Ohio EPA will not tolerate those who blatantly disregard the law, and don’t show consideration for the health of others or the environment,” Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler said. “We will continue to work with our partners at the local, state and federal level to be sure responsible parties are held accountable for their actions. Ohio EPA’s Office of Special Investigations worked hard to put an end to these illegal sewer system discharges, and I commend their efforts.”

“Our nation’s environmental laws are designed to protect human health and safety from those trying to cut costs illegally,” said Randall K. Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio.  "The metals used in this case were especially harmful, requiring proper handling and disposal.  Today’s indictment by a federal grand jury demonstrates how serious these offenses are and shows that EPA will take action to protect communities from pollution.”

“Whether it’s into sewers or directly into waterways, illegal dumping is always a threat to Ohioans,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.  “My office is committed to investigating and prosecuting the intentional dumping of chemicals and the attempts to cover up those actions.”

“It was through the continuous water quality monitoring of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District that it identified rising levels of pollution at its Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Sewer District then took action and identified the source,” said Julius Ciaccia, NEORSD Executive Director. “The Sewer District worked with the US EPA, the Ohio EPA and the Ohio BCI to determine the extent of the wrongdoing by Kelly Plating. The Sewer District has made significant investments to improve water quality in our region, and will not tolerate actions that jeopardize that investment.”

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Beeson following an investigation by the Ohio EPA, U.S. EPA, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

The statutory maximum for violating the Clean Water Act for individuals is three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation or $250,000, whichever is larger.  For corporations the maximum penalty for violating the Clean Water Act is five years of probation and a fine of $50,000 per day of violation or $500,000, whichever is larger.

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offenses and the characteristics of the violations.  In all cases, the sentences will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases they will be less than the maximum.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated March 12, 2015