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Ex-Pittsburgh water exec charged over Allegheny River dumping

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A man is silhouetted as he sits along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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(Reuters) - A former supervisor at Pittsburgh’s public water utility faces up to five years behind bars after being criminally charged in Pittsburgh federal court with telling his employees to dump sludge from a water treatment plant into the same river that feeds the facility, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Monday.

Former Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) interim assistant director, James Paprocki, is accused of one count of conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act (CWA) for his role in discharging the substance into the Allegheny River from the Aspinwall Water Treatment Plant.

Paprocki's attorney, Ryan Smith, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman said in a statement: "Directing the discharge of pollutants into western Pennsylvania's rivers is unacceptable."

Between 2010 and 2017, 51-year-old Paprocki and at least one other supervisor told their staff to dump the sludge formed during the process of treating the water, rather than send it to a treatment facility as per the terms of the plant's discharge permit, the DOJ charges.

Paprocki was charged on Thursday with a so-called "criminal information." That type of filing suggests an intent to plead guilty, the DOJ said.

Last year, the Pittsburgh-owned PSWA was also charged in federal court for playing a role in dumping the sludge into the Allegheny. The utility, which serves 300,000 people, pleaded guilty to two counts in January.

Paprocki's fellow ex-supervisor, Glenn Lijewski, has also been charged in federal court with conspiring to violate the CWA. He has pleaded not guilty.

The case is United States v. Paprocki, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, No. 2:20-cr-360.

For United States: Michael Ivory with the United States Attorney's Office

For Paprocki: Ryan Smith

Read more:

Pittsburgh water utility to plead guilty of polluting its own water supply

EPA-referred enviro crime prosecutions continue decline - report

Sebastien Malo reporters on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com

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