United Water officials refuted environmental criminal charges filed today by United States Department of Justice in Hammond, Indiana, regarding the company’s former operation of the Gary Sanitary District facilities. The company operated the District’s wastewater treatment facilities from 1998 to 2010.
“We are extremely disappointed in the course of action taken by the Department of Justice,” said Robert Iacullo, president of United Water. “The allegations are unfounded and we believe that a jury will agree once the facts are presented. Environmental sustainability is the very lifeblood of our business. The government’s claim is, at best, a disagreement about operating and monitoring methods, with no allegation of environmental harm. Trying to make a crime out of this disagreement is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”
He noted that United Water’s 12-year record of managing and operating Gary’s wastewater facilities is exemplary, as evidenced by the numerous Indiana Water Environment Association Excellence Awards the company received for safety and the integrity of their laboratory procedures. “Our record in Gary is well-documented and stands today as an example of efficient plant operation and environmental stewardship,” Iacullo said.
He explained that when United Water assumed operation of the Gary wastewater facilities, the District was under a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree to find an independent contractor to run its system. In addition, there were dozens of consent issues which had been problematic for decades. Within two years of United Water operating the District facilities, numerous consent decree items had been resolved and the EPA returned oversight of the wastewater facilities to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. In addition, the US Conference of Mayors presented an award to the city for “applying some of the world’s best resources to the operation and maintenance of the city’s wastewater treatment facility.
“During our tenure in Gary, our team implemented numerous safety and training programs for our employees,” said Brent Fewell, United Water’s vice president for environmental compliance. ”The facility was under constant inspection and oversight by environmental agencies and we operated in a transparent manner. Most important, the quality of the water discharged from the plant into the Grand Calumet River improved significantly under our operation. The Grand Calumet River is cleaner today than it’s been in years.”
“Our employees worked hard to do their jobs and protect the environment,” said Iacullo. “They have the utmost respect for the laws designed to protect the environment. United Water is proud to lead by example and considers environmental sustainability a matter of public trust. We will vigorously defend our actions and demonstrate the positive impact we had on improving the environment in Gary.”
About United Water
Founded in 1869, United Water is one of the nation’s leading environmental companies, providing water and wastewater services to approximately 7 million people in the United States. In addition to owning and operating 20 water utilities, the company operates more than 200 municipal and industrial water and wastewater systems through innovative public-private partnerships and contract agreements.
Rich Henning 201-767-2869
Deb Rizzi 201-767-9300