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U.S. Justice Dept: Flint company owner dumped millions of gallons of untreated leachate in sewer

U.S. Justice Dept: Flint company owner dumped millions of gallons of untreated leachate in sewer
January 11, 2021 Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water. This independent journalism is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.


The owner of an oil processing company in Flint is accused of violating the Clean Water Act.

Robert Massey faces a felony charge for allegedly telling employees to illegally dump contaminants into the city’s sewer system.

The U.S. Justice Department made the charges in a document called an “information,” which is similar to a complaint, but is typically filed when it is expected that the defendant will plead guilty to the charges.

According to the filing, Massey’s company, Oil Chem, had a permit to discharge treated oily wastewater to a treatment plant operated by the city of Flint.

But the company was also accepting liquids, called leachate, from Michigan landfills, and allegedly discharging those, untreated, into the city’s sewer system. For that it did not have a permit. Oil Chem is accused of dumping nearly 48 million gallons of untreated leachate into Flint’s sewer system over a period of roughly eight years.

The government alleges Massey told his employees to dump the leachate into the sewer at the end of the work day, so it would end up at a city wastewater treatment plant overnight.

The illegal discharges, some of which allegedly contained PCBs, chemicals known to be harmful to people, happened between 2007 and 2015, and it’s not currently known why Massey is only being charged now, in 2021.

That information may be revealed at the plea hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. on January 14, 2021.

Calls to Massey and his attorney have not yet been returned.


Check out more sewer news on Great Lakes Now:

Epidemic of wipes and masks plagues sewers, storm drains

Single Systems: Great Lakes cities’ sewer designs mean waste in the waters

Public Concern: Climate change, runoff and chemicals at the forefront of people’s worries about the Great Lakes


Featured image: (Photo courtesy of creative commons via Michigan Radio)

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