The two men responsible allegedly lied to regulators about their operation since 2009.
The King County sewer system eventually reaches the Duwamish Waterway and the Puget Sound.
After “a sensitive sewer flow meter tipped them off to something strange,”agents sent a robot into the sewer to investigate, the Seattle Times reports.
Inside the sewer, the robot’s camera recorded a white stain of unknown origin and, according to a federal indictment handed down earlier this month, federal agents executed a search warrant after real-time monitoring equipment they installed indicated an unusual spike in the water’s pH.
During the search, a portable pump covered in a high-pH liquid and a hidden drain that had never been disclosed were both discovered.
It turns out, both the company’s owner and the manager of the plant, who happen to be cousins, have been lying to regulators since at least 2009, according to the indictment. The scheme was discovered in 2018.
The Seattle Barrel and Cooperage Company collects used 55-gallon industrial drums and resells them after undergoing a reconditioning process that involves washing them in a tank full of highly-corrosive chemical solution. The family-owned company is legally obligated to dispose of the caustic solution properly.
Louie Sanft and John Sanft have both charged with criminal conspiracy as well as 29 counts of violating the Clean Water Act—one for each of the 29 times that investigators documented the waste being discharged into the sewer system in 2018 and 2019—and are expected to appear in court next month.
The century-old company is laying the blame on a former employee whose employment was terminated earlier this year, according to Seattle Barrel’s lawyer, Harold Malkin. That employee hasn’t been named or charged.
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