N.C. Operator, Supervisor Sentenced for Crimes

The former operator of the wastewater treatment plant for Dallas, N.C., Kirby Dean Case, 53, of Lowell, N.C., was sentenced May 28 for violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

Previously his supervisor, George Wallace Hughes, III, 50, of Iron Station, N.C., was sentenced for a CWA misdemeanor violation.Case and Hughes previously pleaded guilty to violating CWA between the summer and Dec. 12, 2007, by discharging pollutants from the Town of Dallas Waste Water Treatment Plant into the Dallas Branch of the Catawba River Basin.

Case also pleaded guilty to making false material statements in documents required to be filed or maintained under CWA, and aiding and abetting such false statements, by causing to be filed with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources certain reports that included falsified levels of chlorine, ammonia, fecal coliform, and other materials in samples taken from the Town of Dallas Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Case received a sentence of two months of home confinement; two years of supervised probation; 400 hours of community service; and was ordered to pay a $5,000 criminal fine. Hughes received a sentence of one year of supervised probation; 200 hours of community service; and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

According to court records and proceedings, Case received credit at sentencing for assisting the government’s investigation and for testifying against Hughes at sentencing. Case testified that it was Hughes who directed him, among other things, to substitute drinking water in place of the samples that were supposed to be taken from the wastewater treatment plant and submitted for regulatory oversight.

“The integrity of our wastewater treatment systems is crucial to the quality of the water we all eventually drink,” said Edward R. Ryan, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, when announcing the guilty pleas. “This case sends a message that people responsible for the system who compromise it will go to jail.”

“Complete and accurate wastewater sampling data is essential to protect the public and the environment from the risk of polluted water,” said Maureen O'Mara, special agent in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division in Atlanta. “Individuals who submit false reports or bogus data undermine those efforts and they will be prosecuted.”