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Press Release

Fayette County Man and Business Plead Guilty to Clean Water Act Violations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Michael Graves, 67, of Charlton Heights, and West Virginia Environmental Services (WVES), a company wholly owned by Graves, each pleaded guilty today to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Graves and WVES owned and managed an industrial waste landfill in Fayette County, West Virginia. As noted by inspectors from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Graves and WVES failed to maintain the landfill’s leachate collection for several years beginning in at least 2016. Leachate is any liquid that passes through the landfill and picks up material from the landfill, including toxic materials that must be properly treated prior to discharge into a stream or tributary.

The failure of Graves and WVES to maintain the leachate collection system caused the discharge of leachate that contained toxic water pollutants into a tributary that flowed into the Kanawha River near Alloy, West Virginia. The toxic pollutants included arsenic, hexavalent chromium, and selenium. The Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the landfill has since lapsed and has not been renewed.

Graves is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. WVES faces a maximum penalty of $500,000 and five years of probation. Graves and WVES both face a possible order of restitution.

“Polluters must be held accountable when their violations result in a risk to our communities,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “I thank the Criminal Investigative Division of the Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for their investigative work in this case.”

“Our nation’s environmental laws are designed to ensure water contaminated with heavy metals and known carcinogens from industrial activities, such as those seen here, do not get into our rivers and streams,”  said Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Conrad of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Program in West Virginia. “Today’s guilty plea by Mr. Graves and West Virginia Environmental Services demonstrates that individuals and companies who knowingly violate those laws will be held responsible for their crimes.”

Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes and Special Assistant United States Attorney Perry McDaniel are prosecuting the case.

On May 5, 2022, the Department launched the Office of Environmental Justice and announced a comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy. Enforcement of this strategy relies upon meaningful engagement and transparency with impacted communities regarding environmental justice issues, efforts, and results.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia enforces federal laws to protect environmental quality and human health in all communities within the district. In coordination with components of the Justice Department, the United States Attorney’s Office will hold polluters accountable for their actions, prioritizing cases that will reduce public health and environmental harms to overburdened and underserved communities.

The United States Attorney’s Office encourages the public to report suspected environmental violations within the district. Reports may be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency or by email, mail, or phone to the United States Attorney’s Office.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:22-cr-186.

 

 

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Updated July 20, 2023

Topic
Environmental Justice