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Ronan businessman sentenced for illegally disposing of sewage

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News from the United States Attorney’s Office 

MISSOULA — James Leslie Vaughan, 48, of Ronan, was sentenced today to two years of probation for illegally disposing of domestic sewage. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy after the defendant’s October 2014 guilty plea. In addition to probation, the defendant was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

“Vaughan illegally dumped human waste with an unlicensed porta-potty business and made tens of thousands of dollars annually from it,” said Montana U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter. “We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute environmental violators who put their personal interests above public safety.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean told the Court that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued a cease and desist order to Anytime Septic and its owner, James Vaughan, on Sept. 2, 2009. The letter required Vaughan to stop operating Anytime Septic, because Vaughan did not identify an approved land application site for disposal of septage waste. Vaughan’s disposal records indicate he disposed of waste on 10 different occasions at his residence near Ronan, following receipt of the cease and desist order from MDEQ. EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division conducted an investigation, which confirmed that Vaughan continued to pump and dispose of septage waste following the issuance of the cease and desist order.

During a search of Vaughan’s house, Vaughan could not produce records required to be maintained under EPA regulations. Additionally, investigators photographed septage waste disposed of in an illegal manner at his property. Vaughan wrote a statement during the administrative warrant admitting he disposed of waste at his property in 2011. Vaughan also wrote a statement admitting he deleted his computer files of septage business records during execution of the administrative warrant. 

The investigation revealed that Vaughan operated a thriving septage pumping and disposal business, including pumping septage waste at a federal facility, the National Bison Range Complex, following the cease and desist order issued by MDEQ in 2009. EPA-CID verified that throughout this time period (2009-June 21, 2011) Vaughan was not authorized to dispose of septage waste at any State-approved land application site nor did the City of Ronan waste-water treatment plant authorize waste haulers to dispose of septage waste at the City publicly owned treatment works. Business records of the National Bison Range, confirmed by Vaughan’s business records, show that, despite having no authorized disposal site, on June 7, 2011, Vaughn illegally picked up and disposed of septage waste from vault toilets at the National Bison Range.      

“Our nation’s environmental laws are designed to protect human health and safety,” said Jeffrey D. Martinez, special agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Montana. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those who refuse to comply with the law will be held accountable for their actions.”

The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Lake County Environmental Health Department. 

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