The Department of Justice says that the manager of an Pacific County oyster processing company falsified tests of the plant’s wastewater discharge and lied to state regulators about those readings.
56 year old Lonny Howard was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for a felony violation of the Clean Water Act. Howard was the plant manager of Wiegardt Brothers, Inc. in Ocean Park, and according to U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes, he admitted to falsifying data to understate the amount of fecal coliform the plant was discharging into Willapa Bay for 12 years. U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton imposed a sentence of one year of probation.
“Over a dozen years, this defendant consistently falsified readings intended to protect the health and safety of people using and enjoying Willapa Bay,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Fecal Coliform contamination can have particularly serious consequences for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. The felony conviction in this case is an appropriate sanction for this defendant whose callous disregard for his legal obligations harmed the environment we Northwesterners hold dear.”
According to records, Howard was the Manager between 2002 and 2014, and during that time he tested diluted water from a source known as the “bubbler” instead of taking samples of the wastewater at the point it was discharged into Willapa Bay.
If the level of fecal coliform in the bubbler was still higher than the permit allowed, Howard is said to have falsified the data.
On August 22, 2014, the company reported the violations to the Department of Ecology.
The company and its President pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act in June 2015. Wiegardt Brothers, Inc. agreed to pay a $100,000 fine, make a $75,000 community service payment, implement an EPA approved environmental management system to insure future compliance, and publish a public apology in the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association’s quarterly newsletter. Company President Frederic “Fritz” Weigardt was jointly responsible for payment of the $100,000 criminal fine was required to complete 75 hours of community service.
Howard is no longer employed in the food industry or other industry with environmental compliance issues.