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Owner of Virginia Sewage Treatment Plant Sentenced to Prison for Clean Water Act Felony

Release Date: 12/12/2002
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – On December 10, 2002, Robert B. Gill was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson in the Eastern District of Virginia to a minimum of two years in prison for abandoning the Queen Anne’s Court Wastewater Treatment Plant and causing raw sewage to spill into the local waterways.

The judge also ordered Gill, owner of DLG Public Utility Corporation, Inc., (DLG) to serve three years probation, pay restitution to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in the amount of $32,018 for emergency operation and cleanup at the plant, pay restitution to the Isle of Wight County in the amount of $114,732 for connecting the plant to the local sanitation district. In addition, he is prohibited from future employment as a wastewater treatment plant operator.

The court rejected the defendant’s motion for a sentence less than the sentencing guidelines because he was suffering from diminished mental capacity due to bipolar disorder and severe depression. Instead the judge added a sentencing enhancement citing Mr. Gill’s abuse of his position of trust.

On September16, 2002, Mr. Gill pleaded guilty in federal court in Norfolk, Va. to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act. Mr. Gill pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly violating the permit's operation and maintenance requirements, by failing to take reasonable steps to prevent discharge of pollution in excess of permit limits.

Under a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), this plant was authorized to discharge treated wastewater into Jones Creek, a tributary of the Pagan River. The permit imposes monthly monitoring requirements and imposes limits on discharges of pollutants, including ammonia, fecal coliform, total suspended solids, plus a biochemical oxygen demand - a measure of the oxygen in the creek that would be consumed by the discharge.

The seven-count indictment stated that the defendants knowingly violated requirements of the plant’s Clean Water Act permit by discharging untreated sewage into the Jones River on June 2, 1999; failing to submit monthly water monitoring reports for March, April, May 1999; failing to properly staff and maintain the wastewater plant in May 1999; and failing to respond to DEQ telephone and mail inquiries in May and June, 1999. Charges against DLG were dismissed because the corporation is no longer in business.

This case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.