The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was recognized for an investigation revealing illegal toxic dumping by a Flint-based company.
The DNR Law Enforcement Division found Oil Chem illegally disposed of more than 47 million gallons of harmful liquid into Flint’s sewer system over an eight-year period.
Chief Gary Hagler and Lt. Vence Woods accepted the 2021 Chief David Cameron Leadership in Environmental Crimes Award at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference.
“It is fantastic to see the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division and Environmental Investigations Section recognized with this prestigious IACP award,” Hagler said.
The DNR’s environmental investigation detectives are funded by and handle criminal investigations for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
“Our partnership with EGLE is mutually beneficial and very productive for the residents of our state,” Hagler said. “This is an honor that law enforcement agencies around the world compete for.”
In October 2015, DNR Det. Jan Erlandson received a complaint from an employee at the Flint Wastewater Treatment Plant about Oil Chem receiving leachate from area landfills and illegally dumping it into the sanitary sewer, which flows into the Flint River.
Leachate is formed when rainwater filters through wastes placed in a landfill. When this liquid comes in contact with buried wastes, it leaches or draws out chemicals from those wastes.
Oil Chem was not permitted to accept leachate or discharge any amount of polychlorinated biphenyl waste, the DNR reported. The investigation by Erlandson revealed Robert Massey, Oil Chem’s owner, authorized the company to accept leachate from eight different landfills from 2007 to 2015.
A businessman has been sentenced for dumping nearly 48 million gallons of untreated landfill wastewater into the Flint sewer system.
In December 2020, Massey took a plea agreement for violating Flint’s Clean Water Act. In May 2021, he was sentenced to a year in federal prison. Oil Chem paid a civil fine of $250,000 to the city of Flint and EGLE revoked the company’s waste hauler license.
“The Michigan DNR Environmental Investigations Section would like to thank the EPA Criminal Investigations Division, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Materials Management and Water Resource divisions and Michigan State Police for their assistance with this criminal investigation,” Woods said.