Tim Miller and his Klean Water private treatment plant in Orange dumped untreated toxic wastewater into the sewer system for three years, lied to sanitation officials and would not let them collect samples, and tampered with regulators’ monitoring devices to cover up misdeeds, according to a federal grand jury indictment handed down Wednesday, April 15.
Miller faces up to eight years in prison if convicted and Klean Water would be on the hook for as much as $300,000 in fines.
The Orange County Sanitation District’s sewage treatment plant is not equipped to handle the toxins allegedly dumped, which can disrupt its treatment process and end up in the ocean, according to district spokesperson Jennifer Cabral. However, the toxins would likely be filtered out of recycled wastewater pumped into the groundwater basin, because that portion of the operation includes extensive purification.
Miller’s lawyer denied the allegations.
“We are extremely disappointed in the government’s decision to file these charges, and will vigorously defend against these false allegations in court,” said Richard Callahan in a brief email. Miller, 64, currently lives in Wexford, Penn., according to the Department of Justice.
Beginning in 2012, Miller and his company accepted industrial wastewater from nearby businesses for processing before sending it into the sewage system. However, it did not use the treatment system cited on its permit application, according to the indictment.
It would then “dilute samples of wastewater with clean water so that analyses of the samples would show concentrations of pollutants below permit limits,” the indictment said.
Specific discharges documented 3,200 gallons on Dec. 12, 2013, that included firefighting foam — which in turn contains carcinogenic PFAS compounds. That same day, it dumped 1,500 gallons of untreated wastewater used in washing steel parts.
The following March, untreated discharges included “oily wastewater that contained concentrations of chromium, copper and titanium above permit limits into the sewer system” and “black wastewater that smelled like petroleum.”
In addition to diluting test samples with clean water, the plant attempted to hide its illegal activity by submitting false monitoring reports to the sanitation district, tampering with sampling equipment the district installed at the plant and with sampling probes the district placed in the sewer system downstream from the plant, and by refusing to let district staff inspect company logs and records, the indictment said.
The day after the district revoked Klean Water’s permit in April 2015, the company discharged another 1,200 gallons of untreated wastewater, the indictment said.
Source: Orange County Register