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Oil Chem owner sentenced for discharging leachate into Flint sewer system

Oil Chem Inc. processes oily industrial waste.
Oil Chem Inc. processes oily industrial waste.(WJRT)
Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:06 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The owner of a Flint chemical company was sentenced to a year behind bars for discharging landfill leachate into the city’s sewer system.

Robert Massey, who owns Oil Chem Inc. on 12th Street, pleaded guilty in January to a Clean Water Act violation for discharging nearly 48 million gallons of heavily contaminated landfill leachate into the sewer over 8.5 years from January 2007 to October 2015.

A federal judge ordered Massey to spend 12 months in prison during a sentencing hearing on Friday.

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

Federal prosecutors say 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.

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 sewer system and didn’t disclose that information when his waste discharge permit was renewed in 2008.

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

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.

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