Alabama grease haulers charged with water violations
A Mobile, Alabama, grand jury has indicted a waste disposal
company, its president and top manager for offenses involving
the illegal disposal of waste into the sewage treatment
systems of Mobile and of neighboring municipalities.
DHS Inc., operating under the name Roto Rooter; its president,
Donald Gregory Smith; and manager William Wilmoth Sr.
were charged in a forty-three count indictment with numerous
violations of the Clean Water Act and with fraud and
conspiracy for having dumped into local sewers thousands
of gallons of waste grease and oil that they had been
hired to dispose of safely and legally. The indictment
recites Mobile’s history of years of sewage overflows,
inadequate wastewater treatment and polluting effluent
caused by blockages of sewer lines and treatment works
with solidified grease.
In response to lawsuits under the Clean Water Act, the
city of Mobile entered into a court ordered agreement
with EPA under which Mobile implemented a grease control
program requiring restaurants and other food service
establishments to install grease traps to prevent cooking
oils from entering the sewer system. The indictment charges
that Roto Rooter, on the representation that it would
pump out the grease traps of restaurants and other commercial
customers and dispose of their grease waste at legal
facilities, instead discharged the grease through grease
traps and manholes into the sewer lines that the defendants
were being paid to prevent it from entering.
Roto Rooter employee Michael L. Edington has entered
guilty pleas in federal district court in Mobile from
having dumped from Roto Rooter pump trucks numerous loads
of grease into area sewer systems between 2004 and 2006,
to having falsified grease tracking manifests to make
it appear the waste had been disposed of properly, and
to conspiring with the defendants named in the indictment
to commit the illegal disposals and fraud with which
they have all been charged.
Individuals who are found to have violated the Clean
Water Act are subject to up to three years of incarceration
per count, twenty years in prison for fraud, as well
as monetary penalties.
The matter is being handled by the Justice Department’s
Environmental Crimes Section, the United States Attorney’s
Office for the Southern District of Alabama and EPA’s
Criminal Investigation Division.
An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that
there is probable cause to believe that offenses have
been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course,
is presumed innocent until and unless he or she is proven
guilty at trial.