Business owner must pay $200,000 for dumping grease into Hammond sewers
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2014 3:46PM
Updated: April 16, 2014 6:08AM
An East Chicago company and its owner will pay $200,000 in fines and restitution for illegally dumping waste into the Hammond sewer system without a permit.
U.S. District Judge Philip Simon called the sentences for NH Environmental and Ronald Holmes fair considering the circumstances of the case.
“I view this as serious, but I’ve given you a lot of consideration,” Simon told Holmes during Friday’s sentencing hearing. Holmes was also sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.
Holmes must pay a $30,000 fine, and NH Environmental, which was doing business as Tierra Environmental, must pay a $70,000 fine and a $100,00 restitution to the city of Hammond and the Hammond Sanitary District.
Holmes and the company admitted last year to dumping waste, mostly grease from local restaurants, in the sewers at a building the company owned on 141st Street in Hammond without having a permit, paying the proper fees to the city or following rules for making monthly reports.
Holmes’ attorney, Jackie Bennett Jr., argued that Holmes had thought he had a permit because he had previously leased the building to another company and allowed that company to use his permit. It was his understanding that when that tenant left, he would get the permit back.
However, the permit had expired, and the tenant had applied for, and kept, the permit under its own name.
James Morgulec, an attorney with the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Division, argued that Holmes, who has worked in the waste industry for decades, should have known from experience the permit wasn’t his to use and that he also should have been paying the city for dumping waste and making monthly testing reports on what was being dumped.
He called it “vitally important” for all companies dumping waste into the Hammond Sanitary District to work with the district to ensure the district knows what’s coming in so they can properly handle it. If the district were to fail for some reason, Morgulec said, wastewater could then be released in Lake Michigan and the Grand Calumet River without being treated, which could then kill animals and make water unsafe for drinking.
“They have to know what’s going in,” Morgulec said of the district.
Holmes apologized for his actions, saying he had learned much during the criminal procedures.
“The stress, anguish and embarrassment are a terrible burden to bear,” he said.
Bennett also argued that Holmes had suffered great economic loss, including losing about half his business, because of incorrect media reports on the case.
“There was a catastrophic impact on the company,” Bennett said.
The government had asked that Holmes serve a “significant” period of home detention, but Simon said he did not see home detention as appropriate in this case.