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A Washington-state developer, his company and an employee plead guilty to criminal charges in U.S. District Court in connection with storm water pollution.
According to an article from the Seattle Times, the state Department of Ecology issued warning letters when muddy runoff washed into a nearby stream after a developer and his team cleared portions of a 52-acre site in Pierce County. Officials spoke repeatedly with the contractor and his employees. When it didn't stop, authorities ordered that the work be halted.
State and federal regulators struggled for more than three years with Bryan Stowe and Stowe Construction to clean up the muddy mess that caused two landslides in 2011 that closed a nearby highway.
Now Stowe, his company and an employee are the first Western Washington defendants to plead guilty to criminal charges in U.S. District Court in connection with storm water pollution.
Tyler Amon, acting director of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division in Washington, D.C., told the Seattle Times that the prosecution is a sign that Stowe repeatedly chose "profit over protection."
Amon told the newspaper that it was a big deal for the EPA to classify the construction company’s behavior as a felony. But he explained that it’s because their regular enforcement tools weren’t effective, which Amon said was due to the defendants’ arrogance.
Stowe pleaded guilty earlier in April to one count of intentionally violating the Clean Water Act. His Pierce County-based company pleaded guilty last week, and his employee entered his plea in December.
In the end, the case will cost the builder and his company $750,000 in fines. Stowe faces up to three years in prison, though some believe that it’s unlikely he'll receive that.
He and his company will also have to deal with court-ordered storm water-compliance plans for any future developments. Sentencing is set for September.
Attempts to reach Stowe through his company's attorney were unsuccessful in early April.