According to a press release, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed criminal charges late Monday, March 1, 2016, 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.
Broadband Environmental Service Inc., and owner George Campbell, face seven misdemeanor and felony charges in King County Superior Court, accused of violating the Washington State Reclaimed Water Use Act and filing false water-quality reports with the Department of Ecology.
The state alleges that between 2012-2014, Campbell falsified water quality data 177 times in the reports he was required to file with the Dept. of 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.
According to the Attorney General’s press release, the FTA produces up to 23,610 gallons per day of reclaimed water, consisting of domestic wastewater from academy dormitories, offices, classroom buildings and kitchen. The treatment plant pumps the reclaimed water to a storage pond that ultimately supplies water for firefighting exercises.
The required testing is responsible for monitoring and analyzing water samples for characteristics that indicate water quality and the need for treatment.The state says without accurate data, contaminated water may be left untreated or improperly treated before it’s used.
The State Department of Ecology regulates adherence to Washington’s water-quality laws and investigates potential violations. During an inspection in Nov. 2014, the department reviewed all paperwork related to the Fire Academy’s reclaimed water facility and discovered Campbell had inserted false data – and in some cases water-quality data was entirely missing entirely – which made it impossible for the state to tell if the plant was working well and whether the reclaimed water was safe to use.
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. Broadband Environmental is charged with one count of conspiracy to file a false record and one count of filing a false record.
Campbell’s company was hired by the Washington State Patrol to run the academy’s reclaimed water facility/wastewater treatment plant from 2009–2014.
Lead prosecutor is Assistant Attorney General Bill Sherman. Since 2013, who has led 14 environmental prosecutions that resulted in convictions and restitution totaling over $700,000 for the state.