The Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has successfully prosecuted a Snohomish County environmental crime involving illegal dumping of over 6,000 gallons of sewage. This is the first environmental crime the AGO has prosecuted in 10 years.
Environmental crime prosecution is a top focus under the new administration of Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Ferguson is developing an environmental crimes prosecution program within the AGO Criminal Litigation Unit. He is also working with federal and state agencies to more efficiently prosecute these crimes.
“Enforcing state laws to ensure the health and safety of our citizens and our environment is one of my main priorities,” said Ferguson. “Polluters need to know they can be held criminally liable for breaking our laws.”
The defendant, Ronald Stansberry, operator of Camano Septic Service, previously dumped waste at a La Conner, Wash., facility. After falling behind on payments, he was prohibited from dumping there. Stansberry admitted he drove by private property on Frank Waters Road in Stanwood, Wash., and thought it would be a good place to dump his septic waste for free. From October through November 2012, he admitted dumping an estimated 6,000 gallons of sewage on that private property over three different occasions.
On June 5, 2013, the defendant pled guilty to three counts of Unlawful Dumping of Solid Waste, and one count of Criminal Trespassing in the second degree. He was sentenced to 364 days in jail, but this sentence was suspended for 24 months on the condition he follows the law, obtains all required permits and licenses for any septic pumping business he engages in, pays full restitution to the property owner (still being litigated), and pays another $643 in legal financial obligations.
The property owner has already paid to clean his property, but is still identifying more effective clean-up methods. Stansberry’s restitution will be based on the cost of this clean-up.
“This investigation is a great example of local, state and federal agencies working closely to catch and prosecute an illegal dumping operation,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division for the Pacific Northwest. “Septic dumped illegally can cause unsanitary conditions and contaminate local waterways.”
“This is the type of cooperation the public deserves and expects from us,” said Mark Roe, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney. “We are very thankful for the great relationship we have with the Attorney General.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General John Hillman of the Criminal Justice Division. The Attorney General’s Office has authority to prosecute crimes referred by county prosecuting attorneys. The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office gave the AGO authority to prosecute the case.
EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case.