Indiana Plant Operator Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison
David Van Dyke of Warsaw, Ind., was sentenced on Nov. 18 to serve 46 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release for his conviction on three counts of violating the Clean Water Act.
Van Dyke was the certified operator of the Warsaw, Ind., wastewater treatment plant which discharges into Walnut Creek, a tributary of the Tippicanoe River. Van Dyke altered and falsified a lab report, which was submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The defendant also falsified records of the sewage plant's weekly limit for carbonaceous biological oxygen demand, ammonia, total suspended solids and E-coli bacteria.
In addition, Van Dyke ordered employees at the facility to use diesel fuel at the plant to reduce foaming without reporting that practice to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Rather than pay for sludge disposal, the defendant ordered that sludge be recirculated within the plant. This killed the plant's biological treatment system, leading to the release of untreated sewage into the creek. Testimony at trial indicated that thousands of fish were killed in Walnut Creek in 2002 as a result of these activities. Wildlife also disappeared from the creek area during the discharges and local residents complained of the stench.
Approximately 22,000 cubic yards of sewage sludge remains in Walnut Creek as a result of the improper operation of the facility. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division (Chicago) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Bend.