October 1, 2012
Environmental crimes charges filed against Elk County sewage treatment plant worker
HARRISBURG - Agents from the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Section have filed criminal charges against an Elk County man in connection with alleged falsified environmental reports submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the James City Sewage Treatment Plant.
Attorney General Linda Kelly identified the defendant as Charles Vaughn, 75, 426 Pennsylvania Ave., James City. Vaughn is a certified sewage treatment plant operator at the James City Sewage Treatment Plant, which is owned and operated by the Highland Township Municipal Authority.
Kelly explained that sewage treatment plants are required by law to monitor their discharge. Plant operators are required to measure the daily flow, pH level and total residual chlorine in the discharge, and report this information monthly to the DEP.
Monitoring is required to certify that the sewage treatment plants are operating within the legal limits that were established in order to protect water quality in the Commonwealth.
Kelly said that an investigation by agents from the Environmental Crimes Section determined that the James city Sewage Treatment Plant was being operated by a non-certified plant operator/trainee, and not Vaughn, the only certified operator.
According to the criminal complaint, an unauthorized bypass pipe was installed at the headworks of the plant, which allowed raw sewage to be redirected away from the plant and discharged directly into an unnamed tributary leading to Wolf Run.
Investigators estimate that from 2007 to 2010 Vaughn allowed more than 10 million gallons of wastewater to be discharged in the unnamed tributary.
Kelly said that DEP requires certified sewage treatment plant operators to report sewage that it bypassed through a plant. Vaughn allegedly did not report any sewage that bypassed through the treatment plant and into the tributary.
Vaughn is charged with two counts of tampering with public records or information, two counts of unsworn falsification to authorities and one count of unlawful conduct pursuant to the Clean Streams Law.
He was preliminary arraigned before Johnsonburg Magisterial District Judge George King and released on $5,000 unsecured bail.
The case will be prosecuted in Elk County by Deputy Attorney General Amy Carnicella of the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Section.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
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