Oil Chem owner pleads guilty to Clean Water Act violations in Flint

Oil Chem Inc. processes oily industrial waste. Its permit says certain steps must be taken...
Oil Chem Inc. processes oily industrial waste. Its permit says certain steps must be taken before waste can go to the wastewater treatment plant and ultimately, the Flint River. Court documents indicate those steps were not followed.(WJRT)
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 1:49 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The owner of a Flint chemical company faces prison time and a massive fine after pleading guilty to discharging untreated landfill leachate into the city’s sewer system.

Robert Massey, who owns Oil Chem Inc. on 12th Street, admitted to dumping nearly 48 million gallons of landfill leachate into the sewer over 8.5 years from January 2007 to October 2015.

Leachate is the heavily contaminated water that collects in the bottom of a landfill. Operators have to pump leachate from landfills, truck it to a waste facility and dispose of it properly.

Oil Chem has a permit to discharge liquid industrial waste into Flint’s sewer system, but it does not allow leachate. However, federal prosecutors say Massey did not notify the city of Flint when Oil Chem began sending landfill leachate into the sewers and didn’t disclose that information when his waste permit was renewed in 2008.

That is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Oil Chem accepted truckloads of leachate from eight landfills, which were pumped into a holding tank on the business’ property during the day. Massey is accused of telling employees to empty the leachate from that tank into the sewer system at the close of business every day.

Prosecutors say one of the landfills where Massey accepted leachate shipments has significant PCB contamination, which got passed through the Flint sewer system.

After his guilty plea, Massey could face up to three years in prison and a fine of $5,000 to $50,000 for every day that a violation occurred. He will appear for sentencing before a federal judge on May 14.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Flint’s wastewater plant discharge is located downstream from the intake pipe where Flint drew drinking water from the Flint River during the water crisis in 2014 and 2015, so none of the contaminated leachate entered the city water system.

“The actions of the defendant were done with total disregard for the Flint River and the environment,” Schneider said. “Fortunately for the people of Flint, these contaminants did not end up in their drinking water, because the discharge point was several miles downstream of the drinking water intake. This case should stand as a warning to other businesses that they will face criminal charges for this kind of pollution.”

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