News Feature | March 10, 2016

Waste Plant Operator Charged For Falsifying Data

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Washington State filed charges this month against a treatment plant operator who provided reclaimed wastewater for firefighting operations after it potentially exposed people to contaminants.

The charges are filed against wastewater plant operator George Campbell and his company, Broadband Environmental Service. The company was hired to run the wastewater facility at Washington State’s fire training academy.

The fire training academy “produces up to 23,610 gallons per day of reclaimed water. The water consists of domestic wastewater from dormitories, offices, classroom buildings and the kitchen. The treatment plant pumps the reclaimed water to a storage pond that ultimately supplies water for firefighting exercises,” according to a statement from the state attorney general’s office.

The state alleges that Campbell, the plant operator, filed falsified water-quality data to the state Ecology Department. “Because reclaimed water from the academy is used in fire-training exercises, his actions may have led to contaminated water being sprayed directly on firefighters, structures and the surrounding land,” according to the state attorney general’s office.

“In total, Mr. Campbell and Broadband Environmental Service, Inc. falsified data 20 reported to Ecology for the [fire training academy] on at least 177 occasions during the time period from October 21 2012 through August 2014, including pH, total coliform, UV transmittance, BOD, and TSS,” according to Amy Jankowiak, a Washington State Ecology Department employee, per court documents.

How bad was the allegedly falsified data? The Snoqualmie Valley Record explained: “Among the problems with the recorded data… were pH levels lower than the 6.0 minimum for 15 days, missing or inconsistent reports on coliform bacteria for 10 days and an estimated 170 days of falsified UV transmittance data.”

Campbell had admitted to falsifying some of the information as he attempted to fix the problem, according to court documents. The same document said he thought plant regulations were too stringent.

What are the exact charges? Per the AG’s office:

  • Campbell is charged with five counts of falsifying water quality data. Each count is a Gross Misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and/or a $10,000 fine, plus restitution and the cost of prosecution.

Broadband Environmental is charged with:

  • One count of conspiracy to file a false record. This is a Gross Misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, plus restitution and the cost of prosecution.
  • One count of filing a false record. This is a Class C Felony with a maximum penalty of five years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, plus restitution and the cost of prosecution.

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