The Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority (PWSA) pleaded guilty Wednesday 18-11-20 to eight federal charges for violating the Clean Water Act. The charges include one count of violating the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System by discharging sludge into the Allegheny River, one of three major American rivers that meet at Pittsburgh.
The press release issued by the Department of Justice read:
“The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has been charged and will plead guilty to one count of violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (the NPDES Permit) by discharging sludge into the Allegheny River. The Authority will also plead guilty to seven counts of making false statements in written reports about the amount of sludge it was sending the ALCOSAN’s waste treatment facility. Under the terms of the plea agreement, PWSA will agree to adhere to the terms of a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Program to correct the violations of federal law and to prevent further unlawful pollution of the Allegheny River. “
US Attorney Scott Brady announced the criminal charges against PWSA, including seven counts of lying on written reports to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Brady stated that PWSA dumped sludge into the river from the Aspinwall treatment facility for seven years. The pollution and false statements occurred between 2010 and 2017. Under the terms of the plea agreement, PWSA must “adhere to the terms of a comprehensive Environmental Compliance Program to correct the violations of federal law and to prevent further unlawful pollution of the Allegheny River.” The agreement also ordered PWSA to pay $500,000 into a self-funded compliance program, and the authority will spend three years on probation.
In a related indictment, former Aspinwall Drinking Treatment Plant supervisor Glenn Lijewski was charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and two counts of violating PWSA’s pollutant discharge permit. According to the indictment, Lijewski was “directly responsible for the unauthorized discharge of clarifier sludge into the Allegheny River.” The indictment further alleges that he directed other plant employees to discharge sludge into the river” and “to use estimates sludge flow numbers instead of actual numbers.
The press statement stated:
“For seven years, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has failed to meet its public trust obligations in complying with the Clean Water Act during the production of drinking water for the citizens of Pittsburgh,” said U.S. Attorney Brady. “Today’s criminal charges shed light on years of mismanagement and malfeasance. The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency are committed to protecting you and your families by ensuring that the water you drink is produced safely and that the area’s rivers are not polluted with waste.” . “The people of Pittsburgh deserve and expect local utilities to obey environmental requirements that protect natural resources,” said EPA Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn. “The defendants in this case are accused of dumping sludge into the Allegheny River. Today’s charges show that EPA and our law enforcement partners are committed to enforcing regulations that help protect our communities from environmental and health hazards.”
In a statement, PWSA said the authority “has fully cooperated” with the Department of Justice and the EPA. The authority added that both compliance issued raised in the investigation have been rectified and had no impact on the quality or safety of the drinking water.
See the press release