A former Mount Rainier National Park employee has been found guilty of violating the Clean Water Act, a felony, for letting nearly 200,000 gallons of sewage flow into the Nisqually River.
Park Service officials say James Barber, who worked at the Paradise wastewater treatment plant, was found guilty December 9 by a jury. According to the agency, on August 27, 2011, Mr. Barber "intentionally bypassed part of the treatment process. He then left the plant for his three days off and failed to notify anyone of the bypass. As a result, approximately 180,000 gallons of minimally treated sewage were discharged, much of it eventually reaching the Nisqually River."
The cleanup and monitoring involved several park divisions, an NPS Public Health Service officer, the Washington Department of Ecology, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The investigation was led by EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division and the NPS Investigative Services Branch and included park staff.
Mr. Barber initially had pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in 2012, but withdrew that plea before sentencing and exercised his constitutional right to a trial, according to Park Service officials.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office for the western district of Washington, "(T)he treatment plant is designed to provide advanced secondary treatment before the waste is discharged into a drainage ditch that flows into a waterfall. The waterfall flows into the Nisqually River."
When he entered a plea agreement, Mr. Barber admitted that "during spring and summer 2011, he failed to stop the build-up of solid waste in the treatment plant," the U.S. attorney noted in a press release issued at the time. "The filters became clogged and the advanced treatment portion of the plant would not operate properly. Instead of fixing the problem, Barber used a by-pass around the advanced treatment and surge storage tank. As a result minimally treated sewage was dumped directly into the drainage ditch and flowed into the waterfall and Nisqually River."