Plant Manager for Willapa Bay Oyster Processor Sentenced for Violating Clean Water Act
Knowingly Submitted Fraudulent Test Data of Fecal Coliform Levels in Wastewater
The manager of an Ocean Park, Washington oyster processing company who falsified important tests of the plant’s wastewater discharge and lied to state regulators about those readings was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for a felony violation of the Clean Water Act, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. LONNY HOWARD, 56, was employed as the plant manager of Wiegardt Brothers, Inc. (WBI). HOWARD admitted that, for 12 years, he falsified data to understate the amount of fecal coliform the plant was discharging into Willapa Bay. U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton imposed a sentence of one year of probation.
“Over a dozen years, this defendant consistently falsified readings intended to protect the health and safety of people using and enjoying Willapa Bay,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Fecal Coliform contamination can have particularly serious consequences for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. The felony conviction in this case is an appropriate sanction for this defendant whose callous disregard for his legal obligations harmed the environment we Northwesterners hold dear.”
According to records filed in the case, HOWARD was the General Manager of Wiegardt Brothers between 2002 to 2014. During that period, the company was required to perform monthly tests of the wastewater by taking samples of the wastewater at the point it was discharged into Willapa Bay. HOWARD admitted that instead of doing so, he tested diluted water from source known as “bubbler,” causing the tests to understate the amount of fecal coliform in the wastewater. On some occasions, the level of fecal coliform in the bubbler was still higher than the permit allowed. In those instances, HOWARD falsified the data submitted to the state to make it appear the plant was in compliance. When asked by inspectors whether he was taking tests from the location specified in the permit, HOWARD falsely told the inspectors that he was doing so.
On August 22, 2014, the company reported the violations to the Department of Ecology and has been working with environmental regulators on a remediation plan. Regulators were unable to assess whether the violations resulted in any environmental harm.
The company and its President pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act in June 2015. Wiegardt Brothers, Inc. agreed to pay a $100,000 fine, make a $75,000 community service payment, implement an EPA approved environmental management system to insure future compliance, and publish a public apology in the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association’s quarterly newsletter. Company President Frederic “Fritz” Weigardt was jointly responsible for payment of the $100,000 criminal fine was required to complete 75 hours of community service.
HOWARD is no longer employed in the food industry or other industry with environmental compliance issues.
The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Seth Wilkinson and James Oesterle and Special Assistant United States Attorney Karla Perrin, with assistance from EPA Regional Enforcement Counsel Bradley Roberts.