SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed criminal charges late yesterday against a man and his company for falsifying data and allowing distribution of reclaimed water that didn’t meet state water-quality standards at the Washington State Fire Training Academy (FTA) in North Bend.
George Campbell and his company, Broadband Environmental Service Inc., face seven misdemeanor and felony charges in King County Superior Court. They stand accused of violating the Washington State Reclaimed Water Use Act and filing false water-quality reports with the Dept. of Ecology.
From 2012–2014, the state alleges, Campbell falsified water quality data 177 times in the reports he was required to file with Ecology. 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.
“Clean water is vital to the health and safety of Washington residents, and protecting it is one of my top priorities,” said Ferguson. “I won’t tolerate a business padding its bottom line by taking shortcuts at the expense of public health and our environment.”
The FTA 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.
Campbell’s company was hired by the Washington State Patrol to run the academy’s reclaimed water facility/wastewater treatment plant from 2009–2014. In this role, Campbell was responsible for monitoring and analyzing water samples for characteristics that indicate water quality and the need for treatment — including dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, flow, turbidity, ultraviolet dose and coliform bacteria. Without accurate data, contaminated water may be left untreated or improperly treated before it’s used.
Ecology regulates adherence to Washington’s water-quality laws and investigates potential violations. During an inspection in Nov. 2014, Ecology reviewed all paperwork related to the reclaimed water facility at the academy and found Campbell had inserted false data. In some instances, water-quality data was missing entirely. This made it impossible for the state to tell if the plant was working well and whether the reclaimed water was safe to use.
The law requires any operator of reclaimed water to obtain and comply with a Reclaimed Water Waste Discharge Permit. The state alleges Campbell violated the terms of his Reclaimed Water Waste Discharge Permit by:
- Submitting false and fabricated water quality data;
- Not maintaining or retaining adequate and complete records;
- Falsifying report data;
- Failing to report required data; and
- Allowing distribution of reclaimed water that did not meet quality requirements.
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.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The lead prosecutor is Assistant Attorney General Bill Sherman.
Ferguson has made prosecuting environmental crimes a priority of his administration. Since 2013, he has brought environmental prosecutions leading to 14 criminal convictions, and restitution orders totaling in excess of $700,000.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov