Company Indicted for Release of Contaminated Water on Oahu
The company that operates the Big Island’s West Hawaii landfill has been indicted for violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with its management of a landfill on Oahu.
Waste Management of Hawaii Inc. and two of its executives, general manager Joseph Whelan and environmental protection manager Justin Lottig, were also indicted on conspiracy and making false statements to the Hawaii Department of Health and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The indictment by a federal grand jury alleges that Waste Management provided false information to state health officials about the ability of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill to handle storm water.
The company also operates the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill at Puuanahulu in North Kona.
The indictment deals with the federal permit requiring that the operation of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill include proper handling of heavy rains to ensure that the storm water doesn’t come into contact with waste, the Office of the US Attorney in Honolulu said in a statement issued today.
According to the indictment, heavy rainfall events in 2010 and 2011 resulted in the landfill pumping millions of gallons of storm water contaminated by waste into the ocean near the Ko Olina Resort.
Pollutants discharged along with the storm water included raw sewage as well as large amounts of medical waste such as blood vials and syringes.
The indictment alleges that over an 8-month period in 2010, Lottig supplied false information about the adequacy of the storm water discharge system. It said on two occasions that year he allegedly lied to health department inspectors by saying that the water discharged had not come into contact with waste.
The company faces fines of up to $500,000 on each count of violations of the Clean Water Act, and fines of up to $50,000 per day for failing to inform health officials of potential problems with the discharge system.
If convicted, Lottig faces prisons sentences ranging from one to five years for the various counts, and a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count.
Whelan faces prison terms of two to three years and a fine of $250,000 on each count.
Wheelabrator, a subsidiary of Waste Management, was the company selected in 2008 to construct a waste-to-energy plant on the Big Island. That project was later scuttled by the Hawaii County Council because of its cost.
Wheelabrator was also among the companies expressing interest in Hawaii County’s latest proposal to process garbage into energy.