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Indictment of Environmental Lab Operator a Sign of DOJ’s Willingness to Treat CWA Violations as Criminal Matters

By: James W. Kraus
November 11, 2012

As industrial waste-water becomes a more significant issue, particularly in those states where hydraulic fracturing for natural gas recovery is prevalant, it is important to understand the potential criminal sanctions for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA).  DOJ’s willingness to proceed with criminal charges in such matters was recently demonstrated with the indictment of Tennie White, owner, operator and manager of Mississippi Environmental Analytical Laboratories, Inc.

According to the indictment, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on November 9, 2012, White had been hired to perform laboratory testing of a manufacturer’s industrial process waste water samples.  Upon completion of the testing, White was to use those results to complete monthly Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs) for submission to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).  According to the government, White created three DMRs that falsely represented that laboratory testing had been performed on samples when, in fact, such testing had not been done.  The indictment further alleges that White made false statements to a federal agent during a subsequent criminal investigation.