Criminal Updates from the DOT – Office of Inspector General

In our March 6, 2020 hazardous materials Highlight post, we shared the US Department of Transportation - Office of Inspector General’s (“DOT-OIG”) website, www.oig.dot.gov, which provides up-to-date information on recent hazmat transportation civil and criminal enforcement actions.  Practitioners can stay informed of these developments in real-time by signing up for the DOT-OIG’s email notification list. Below are two recent enforcement actions that caught our attention.

California Company Sentenced for Violating the Clean Water Act

On August 3, 2020, the U.S. District of Court for the Central District of California sentenced United Pumping Service, Inc., for violating the Clean Water Act.  The company specializes in hazardous and non-hazardous waste removal, transportation, and remediation. 

According to the charges filed on June 2, 2020, and the guilty plea entered on June 10, 2020, the criminal activity occurred in May 2015, when United Pumping Service, Inc. and United Storm Water Inc. aided and abetted each other to transport and deliver six loads of industrial wastewater to another company’s facility.  United Pumping Service, Inc. and United Storm Water Inc. were aware that the wastewater contained arsenic, a toxic inorganic chemical, but did not disclose this to the company that received the wastewater.  That company, in turn, discharged the wastewater into the Los Angeles municipal sewer, unknowingly causing a violation of its Clean Water Act pretreatment permit.  United Pumping Service, Inc. and United Storm Water, Inc. pled guilty to negligently caused a violation of the pretreatment program under the Clean Water Act.  The investigation into these activities was conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

On August 3, 2020, United Pumping Service, Inc., was sentenced to 3 years’ probation, a $375,000 fine, and a $500 special assessment for violating the Clean Water Act.  During its probation period, United Pumping Service, Inc., must maintain a compliance program to ensure the company complies with provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, and the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act, which apply to its operations as a waste transporter.  It must also submit annual reports to federal agencies documenting its compliance. 

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Technician Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Pipeline Document 

On June 22, 2020, Joshua Springer of Scottdale, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to knowingly and willfully making and causing the making of a false document in connection with an interstate pipeline project.  The charges were brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania on March 10, 2020, following an investigation by OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  

At the time of the alleged misconduct, Springer was employed as a level II radiographic technician, and was responsible for testing pipeline welds by x-ray and certifying their quality and integrity, as required by regulations of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  Springer allegedly falsified the x-ray results on approximately 77 occasions and certified in writing that the welds had been properly x-rayed and the resulting exposures were acceptable.  The investigation by OIG and FBI concluded that he had not properly x-rayed or interpreted the welds.  Springer is scheduled to be sentenced on August 24, and faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. 

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