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  • Ron Kotrba

Former Community Fuels director of operations sentenced to prison for illegal dumping

Christopher Young, the former director of operations for Stockton, California-based biodiesel producer Community Fuels from 2010-’16, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by a U.S. district court judge Oct. 4 for tampering with monitoring equipment, unlawful discharge of industrial wastewater, and conspiracy.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Young participated in a scheme to unlawfully discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of polluted wastewater, including directly into Stockton’s sewer system, after tampering with pH sensors and discharge-flow monitors in order to hide evidence of the dumping. The justice department stated that Young also directed others to discharge on various dates “using improvised hidden hoses and pipes that ultimately connected to the city’s sewer system.”

The city of Stockton issued wastewater permits to American Biodiesel Inc. (doing business as Community Fuels) that allowed “limited discharge of wastewater into the sewer system under specific standards—a limitation on the total volume discharged per month, an allowable range of pH readings, and a restriction on the concentration of methanol,” the justice department stated. “American Biodiesel had previously represented to the city of Stockton that unpermitted wastewater would be transported offsite to an appropriate facility for treatment. Young’s actions circumvented these restrictions through equipment tampering and unauthorized dumping. In one instance in 2016, the city of Stockton conducted a surprise inspection and found plant personnel engaged in a procedure that misreported the pH-level data and the flow rate of wastewater being discharged into the Stockton sewer system. The city issued an immediate cease and desist order. Young then met with the city inspectors and told them that the discharge was an accident and employees had been disciplined for the act. But later, Young sent an email instructing an employee to restart the wastewater dumping into the sewer because inspectors were unlikely to appear after hours.”

On July 8, 2019, American Biodiesel was sentenced for violations of the Clean Water Act with three years of probation, more than $400,000 in fines, and more than $250,000 in restitution to the Port of Stockton and the city. “American Biodiesel admitted to tampering with monitoring devices and methods designed to detect such violations, and admitted that employees tampered with pH recordings and flow meters for the purpose of underreporting acid and pollutant levels and volumes that would have exceeded the figures allowed under the city’s regulations,” according to the justice department.

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