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U.S. Justice Dept: Flint company owner dumped millions of gallons of untreated leachate in sewer

creative commons

The owner of an oil processing company in Flint is accused of violating the Clean Water Act. 

Robert Massey faces a felony charge for allegedly telling employees to illegally dump contaminants into the city's sewer system.  

The U.S. Justice Department made the charges in a document called an "information," which is similar to a complaint, but is typically filed when it is expected that the defendant will plead guilty to the charges.

According to the filing, Massey's company, Oil Chem, had a permit to discharge treated oily wastewater to a treatment plant operated by the city of Flint. 

But the company was also accepting liquids, called leachate, from Michigan landfills, and allegedly discharging those, untreated, into the city's sewer system. For that it did not have a permit. Oil Chem is accused of dumping nearly 48 million gallons of untreated leachate into Flint's sewer system over a period of roughly eight years.

The government alleges Massey told his employees to dump the leachate into the sewer at the end of the work day, so it would end up at a city wastewater treatment plant overnight.

The illegal discharges, some of which allegedly contained PCBs, chemicals known to be harmful to people, happened between 2007 and 2015, and it's not currently known why Massey is only being charged now, in 2021. 

That information may be revealed at the plea hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. on January 14, 2021.

Calls to Massey and his attorney have not yet been returned.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.