Those responsible for the toxic EPA spill into the Animus River should be prosecuted to the fullest extent for their actions. Just as the EPA has gone after individuals and private companies for violating various EPA statutes, the EPA workers who released 3 million gallons should face the same fate.
Take the case of Lawrence Lewis, who, in 2007, was accused of violating the Clean Water Act, unknowingly, while executing accepted policy of relieving overflowing drain pipes into the street drainage system. Assisted by his long-time maintenance staff, Lewis “diverted a backed-up sewage system into an outside storm drain—one they long believed was connected to the city’s sewage-treatment system—to prevent flooding in an area where the sickest residents lived. In fact, the storm drain emptied into a creek that ultimately reaches the Potomac River.”
For this crime, Lewis was prosecuted; he pleaded guilty only in order to avoid jail time away from his family. Lewis was sentenced to one year’s probation and placed under court-ordered supervision, which included unannounced visits to his home and new place of employment.
The Wall Street Journal covered this atrocity:
In an interview [his lawyer said], “There was no fight to have. It was a strict liability case,” meaning the government didn’t have to prove Mr. Lewis knew he was doing anything wrong. “His good intentions did not matter.” The lawyer told Mr. Lewis that, to be found guilty, prosecutors needed only to prove that he was aware that sewage was being pumped into the storm drain that led to the creek.
In court documents, the government argued that Mr. Lewis didn’t ensure the storm drain fed into a waste-treatment facility rather than the creek. About 30% of the city’s storm drains flow to a treatment plant, according to the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. Plus, the government argued, Mr. Lewis was responsible for several prior discharges during his time at Knollwood.
Certainly, dumping 3 million gallons of materials into a river is far more serious than diverting a storm drain into a creek accidentally. If Mr. Lewis can endure a harsh sentence for his accidental crime, the EPA should most certainly follow through with their employees who are “very sorry”, for their massive pollution and make sure they receive the same swift justice that Mr. Lewis received.