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Mount Rainier plant operator charged with dumping 200,000 gallons of sewage into waterway

Post by Stacia Glenn / The News Tribune on Sep. 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
September 27, 2012 1:22 pm

A treatment plant operator at Mount Rainier National Park has been charged with dumping 200,000 gallons of sewage into a river that winds through the park.

James Barber will appear in federal court Friday morning to enter a plea. He has been charged with violating the Clean Water Act, which is a misdemeanor.

Barber worked at a treatment plant that handles waste from the Paradise Visitor Center and the Paradise Inn. Because the park sees fewer visitors in the winter, operators do not treat the sewage as often as they do in the warmer months.

Federal prosecutors contend Barber failed to properly handle the buildup of solid waste at the plant, which caused him to lose control of the plant in August 2011 and not be able to handle the incoming wastewater.

Due to his “gross mismanagement,” charging papers claim filters at the treatment plant became clogged and stopped working, filling the tank with sludge. Barber allegedly tried to cover up his error by bypassing the normal wastewater treatment process and sending the untreated waste into a drainage ditch.

He did not tell anyone what had happened, failed to sample the sewage and did not record it in the plant’s log books, court documents state.

“Instead, he left for several days off from work, informing none of his colleagues or supervisors about the by-pass of waste,” according to charging papers.

For four days, the sewage discharged through a pipe into a drainage ditch that flows into a waterfall that eventually leads to the Nisqually River.

Testing found about 200,000 gallons of minimally treated sewage was dumped into the water.

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