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Flint business owner pleads guilty to violating Clean Water Act


Robert Massey, the president of Oil Chem, Inc. in Flint, has pleaded guilty to a charge of violating the Clean Water Act.

Massey had a permit from the city of Flint to send treated oily liquids to a wastewater treatment plant, but he didn't have a permit to dump landfill leachate directly into Flint sewers.   

Landfill leachate is formed when water filters downward through a landfill, picking up dissolved materials and contaminants from decomposing trash.  Federal authorities say some of the leachate contained PCBs, chemicals known to be harmful to humans.

Over an eight and a half year period of time, Massey directed employees to dump more than 47 million gallons of leachate into a sewer at the close of business, apparently so his polluting wouldn't be apparent to treatment plant operators.  

“Protecting Michigan’s water is one of the most important and sacred things we can do,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider in a press release. “The actions of the defendant were done with total disregard for the Flint River and the environment. 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.”

Massey will be sentenced in May, and could face up to three years in prison and fines of between $5,000  and $50,000 for each day he violated the Clean Water Act. 

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.
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