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Press Release

Fayette County Man and Business Sentenced for Clean Water Act Violations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
West Virginia Environmental Services Fined Maximum $500,000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – For violating the Clean Water Act, Michael Graves, 68, of Charlton Heights, was sentenced yesterday to one year of incarceration, to be served on home confinement as part of a five-year term of federal probation, and fined $10,000 and West Virginia Environmental Services, Inc. (WVES), a company wholly owned by Graves, was fined $500,000 and placed on corporate probation for three years.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Graves and WVES owned and managed an industrial waste landfill in Fayette County, West Virginia. Graves and WVES were paid over $9.8 million from 2006 to 2020 to accept industrial waste and treat the resulting leachate. This contaminated liquid that passes through a landfill includes toxic materials and must be properly treated prior to discharge into a stream or tributary. As no new waste was accepted at the Fayette County landfill after 2008, the sole remaining task of Graves and WVES was to collect and treat the leachate.

Graves and WVES failed to maintain the landfill’s leachate collection for several years beginning in at least 2016. This failure by Graves and WVES caused the discharge of leachate that contained toxic water pollutants into Jarrett Branch, a tributary that flows into the Kanawha River near Alloy, West Virginia. The toxic pollutants included arsenic, hexavalent chromium, and selenium.

Inspectors from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection repeatedly documented the illegal discharges into Jarrett Branch, resulting in numerous notices of violations issued to Graves and WVES. The Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the landfill has since lapsed and has not been renewed.

“Mr. Graves and WVES continuously and repeatedly allowed discharges of untreated toxic industrial pollutants into the nation’s waters, despite having been paid millions of dollars to properly maintain the landfill,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “The defendants abused the public trust that accompanied the issuance of the discharge permit. This outcome, which includes the maximum possible fine against WVES, reflects the egregious nature and circumstances of the offenses and is necessary to promote respect for the law and to deter similar criminal conduct.”

Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the Criminal Investigative Division of the Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Graves and WVES each pleaded guilty to one felony count of violation of the Clean Water Act on February 22, 2023. Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. imposed today’s sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes and Special Assistant United States Attorney Perry McDaniel prosecuted 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.



Updated December 24, 2023

Environmental Justice