A federal grand jury indicted Harlem's director of Public Works on Wednesday, alleging he violated the Clean Water Act.
Daniel Webster Cason was indicted on 11 counts by the grand jury in Savannah, according to a news release from the Southern District of Georgia office of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The indictment charges Cason, who was then responsible for operation of the city's Wastewater Treatment Plant, in a January 2004 pumping of a pollutant from the oxidation pond at the plant into nearby Euchee Creek and falsifying records and statements about plant measurements of fecal coliform and biochemical demand.
Cason is charged with one count of knowingly discharging a pollutant without a permit and 10 counts of making false statements.
The indictment says Cason "knowingly discharged a pollutant from a point source, ... a hose connected to a portable pump which was placed in the oxidation pond at the City of Harlem, Georgia's Wastewater Treatment Plant" on North Louisville Street into Euchee Creek without a permit. A "pollutant" includes sewage, sewage sludge and biological materials.
The indictment also alleges that between November 2003 and April 2005, Cason "knowingly made false material statements, representations, and certifications in reports and records required to be filed or maintained under the Clean Water Act."
Those records are typically filed with the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The indictment is a result of an investigation conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI, according to the release.
"This happened four years ago," Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said. "Since then, the mayor and city council have spent $1 million on upgrading the sewer system. It is a model system now that the EPD sends people to Harlem to look at it and model theirs after ours. "
Culpepper said since the investigation began, the city has cooperated with authorities and plans to continue.
City officials said Cason has not had any responsibility for operations of the Wastewater Treatment Plant for several months.
"When it became apparent that Daniel was the focus of the EPA probe, we removed him and relieved him from any responsibility there," Culpepper said.
Augusta attorney Pete Theodocion confirmed that he has been hired by the city of Harlem to represent Cason. Theodocion said he advised Cason not to speak about the case and declined to comment other than to say he expects Cason's initial appearance and arraignment hearing to be held in the next few weeks.
The city's drinking water was never affected by Cason's alleged activities but Culpepper wanted to stress the point.
"This absolutely has nothing to do with drinking water," Culpepper said. "It never has. ..."
Cason faces three years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the pumping charge and two years' confinement and a $250,000 fine on each of the false statement charges. No initial appearance or arraignment dates have been set.
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