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Release Date: 11/17/1998
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith (215) 814-5543

HENRY CO., Va. - United States Attorney Robert  P. Crouch, Jr.,  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced today the filing of charges and plea agreements involving the Henry County Public Service Authority (HCPSA) and two of
its former managers.

Crouch announced that the HCPSA will plead guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act and Mark L. Nolen, a former plant manager of the Upper Smith River wastewater treatment facility will plead guilty to two felony violations of the Clean Water Act.  Thomas H. Clark, Nolen’s former supervisor, who served until recently as the manager of the HCPSA’s drinking water and sewage treatment division, will plead guilty to two Clean Water Act misdemeanors.

"Municipal sewage plants are major dischargers to the region’s streams and rivers, and Virginians rightly expect these plants to obey the law," said EPA Regional Administrator W. Michael McCabe. McCabe hailed the cooperation of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in preparing this criminal case.

The charges and plea agreements cap a two-year investigation by federal and state authorities into allegations that the HCPSA violated the Clean Water Act.  Specific details of the charges may be found in the Information filed today.  

The HCPSA has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.  In addition, HCPSA will spend
at least $900,000 on environmental projects during a three year probation to implement
an environmental compliance program, and hire an environmental professional to be responsible for environmental compliance at the HCPSA’s wastewater and drinking water treatment operations and to oversee the work of contractors hired to operate the HCPSA’s
sewage treatment facilities.  As part of its compliance program, the HCPSA will provide employees and contractor personnel with a toll-free telephone number so they can report suspected environmental noncompliance.

The investigation included reviewing HCPSA records dating back to the early 1980s and interviewing many former or current employees at the HCPSA since the late 1970s.  Crouch praised the inter-agency cooperation utilizing the investigative resources of FBI agents from Roanoke and EPA agents based in Arlington, Va., and the technical environmental support provided by VADEQ in Richmond and Roanoke.  EPA opened a criminal investigation office in Arlington in Oct. of 1997 to investigate allegations of environmental crime in Va., Md., and the District of Columbia.

Crouch emphasized that the investigation had focused on the Authority’s sewage treatment operations and had revealed significant violations at the Upper Smith and Piedmont Estates sewage treatment facilities.

The Smith River is part of the Roanoke River watershed which flows into the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  In the area of the HCPSA’s facilities, the Smith River provides habitat to native trout and other fish species and is a source of drinking water.
The statutory maximum punishments for the defendants:  

      * HCPSA - a fine of up to $25,000 per day of violation or $200,000 per count, whichever is greater, and five years probation per count;
      * Nolen - five years of  imprisonment, a fine of up to $50,000 per day of violation or $500,000;
      * Clark - one year of imprisonment per count, a fine of up to $25,000 per day of violation or $100,000 per count.

Prosecution of this case has been assigned to Assistant Jennie L.M. Waering and Special Assistant United States Attorney Martin Harrell, a lawyer with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region III office in Philadelphia.