Updated: December 10, 2012 6:28AM
HAMMOND — Lawyers for the government and United Water argued over the meaning of data, witness testimony and the details of water sampling in their closing statements Thursday at the U.S. District Court in Hammond.
United Water and two of its Gary employees, Dwain Bowie and Gregory Ciaccio, were indicted on 23 counts of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and for tampering with water samples at the Gary Sanitary District between 2003 and 2010.
The government alleges that United Water intentionally spiked levels of chlorine, which they used to kill E. coli bacteria, thus testing beneath the maximum allowed under their permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. GSD employees would quickly lower the amounts after the sample was taken.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris Dighe presented an email showing that Bowie wrote the treatment plant employees “need to get our house in order.” Dighe cited the testimony of former employee Reggie Caldwell, who said he was fired at least in part because he refused to participate, and other employees who noticed the spikes in chlorine, calling it a “recipe for disaster.”
“They wanted to make money, so they were trying to limit the use of chlorine,” Dighe said. “The focus on making money over environmental compliance drove the siutation.”
Dighe cited 22 substantive Clean Water Act violations
“It’s not a defense to a crime that you didn’t get caught earlier,” Dighe said. “It was wrong, unethical and illegal.”
Patrick Cotter, one of United Water’s attorneys, said the state put no limitations on how much chlorine to use.
“The very foundation of the government’s case is wrong,” Cotter said. “The defendants did what they were required to do by the permit.”
Cotter also said E. coli testing is prone to false positives, so that led to adding more chlorine.
“In the real world, we had a real problem — a river of sewage. Was it wrong to try and deal with it?” Cotter said.
Bowie’s attorney Jackie Bennett Jr. argued that Caldwell was an unreliable witness, who he said changed his story on multiple occasions and was fired for incompetence.
“Reggie Caldwell himself is reasonable doubt in this case,” Bennett said.
Ciaccio’s lawyer J.P. Hanlon questioned why his client would write down data if they were committing illegal acts.
“The government’s case against Greg is essentially he worked at the plant,” Hanlon said.
The case went to the jury around 3 p.m.