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Washington DOC Fined $60,000 for Bogus Water Pollution Reports

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) has fined the state Department of Corrections (DOC) $60,000 for falsifying water pollution reports. The fine was levied after the DOE discovered that officials at the McNeil Island Correction Center (MICC) near Steilacoom, Washington had filed numerous false wastewater reports.

Larry Altose, A DOE spokesman, said that 20 of 36 water pollution reports, filed from 1999 to 2002 by an unnamed MICC wastewater treatment plant operator, were falsified. Several of those reports were falsified to cover up permit violations, said Altose.

The plant processes 350,000 gallons of wastewater each day. The wastewater collects in a reservoir on McNeil Island. In one case, fecal coliform levels in the wastewater were four times the acceptable limit. In other cases, the wastewater was too murky or too contaminated to carry sufficient oxygen to sustain fish and other resident aquatic life, said Pam Jenkins, the Environmental Service Director for the DOC.

The problem was corrected in July of 2002, and the plant operator who filed the false reports was put on administrative leave with pay, according to Jenkins. Since then, the former plant operator has continued to draw his $40,000 yearly salary, at taxpayers' expense, without ever having to report to work.

The DOC was ultimately fined $60,000 for filing the bogus reports. Jenkins said she would prefer a negotiated settlement, such as the establishment of a wastewater plant training program with periodic audits at each Washington prison, over the DOC's actually having to pay the fine.

Source: The Tacoma News Tribune

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