NORFOLK -- Michael J. Ward, 54, of Gouverneur pleaded guilty today in federal court in Binghamton to three felony counts of violating the Clean Water Act, announced Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith.
In pleading guilty, Ward admitted that between January 2013 and September 2015, while employed as the technical director in charge of environmental compliance at the APC Paper Group paper mill in Norfolk, he caused the paper mill to violate its Clean Water Act permit by discharging wastewater containing excessive levels of biochemical oxygen demand (“BOD”) into the Raquette River, Jaquith said.
BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen necessary for microorganisms in the water to break down organic material. BOD levels also provide an index for measuring the effect discharged wastewater will have on the body of fresh water receiving it. In this case, the paper mill’s Clean Water Act permit restricted the amount of BOD that could be discharged through wastewater, according to Jaquith.
Ward admitted in court that he was responsible for monitoring, calculating, and reporting the paper mill’s compliance with its Clean Water Act permit. He further admitted that he hid and falsified data regarding the BOD levels in the mill’s wastewater discharges, thus allowing the mill to violate its Clean Water Act permit on a regular basis. Additionally, he repeatedly falsified monthly reports to the DEC to hide the continuing Clean Water Act violations. The defendant’s illegal conduct was discovered after he was fired by APC Paper Group for unrelated reasons in the fall of 2015, according to Jaquith.
The charges to which Ward pleaded carry a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $800,000, and a term of supervised release of up to one year.
Ward will be sentenced in federal court in Binghamton on Jan. 26 by Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors, Jaquith said.