U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. announced Tuesday that Michael Yount, 47, of Lancaster, who was convicted of making a materially false statement, was sentenced to serve two years probation by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. Wolford also ordered the defendant to perform 100 hours of community service "that directly contributes to the betterment of this community's environment."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who handled the case, said that on July 18, 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation responded to an alleged oil spill in Cayuga Creek in Niagara Falls. The DEC Spills Unit found a significant amount of suspected waste oil in the creek along Niagara Falls Boulevard near Tuscarora Road and in a large storm sewer water pipe along Niagara Falls Boulevard.
As part of a subsequent investigation, a DEC Environmental Programs technician began looking into potential sources of the oil discharge, which the technician estimated to be between a 300 and 500 gallon oil spill, and whether a violation of the Clean Water Act had occurred. The technician contacted the defendant, who was the environmental compliance officer for Delta Sonic Car Wash Systems Inc., which has a location on Niagara Falls Boulevard, approximately a half a mile from Cayuga Creek. During a meeting at the Delta Sonic location on Niagara Falls Boulevard, the technician learned that Delta Sonic was renovating the oil change and lube shop garage, which involved the removal of concrete floors by a subcontractor. At that time, Yount said that there had not been any problems except for a minor spill of approximately two gallons of oil, which was immediately cleaned up.
The technician returned to Delta Sonic the following day and observed an absorbent boom with oil on it in a storm sewer receiver located in the parking lot outside of the oil change garage. While the technician was looking into the storm sewer receiver with the defendant, Yount, sought to mislead the technician by saying booms were often left in sewers and that the boom in question may have been in there for some time. However, the defendant knew that booms were not often left in the sewers at Delta Sonic and that this particular boom had been placed in the storm sewer receiver approximately six days earlier. The boom had been placed in the storm sewer receiver as a result of a complaint by another Delta Sonic employee that oily wastewater was being pumped into it as a result of the renovation of the Delta Sonic oil change and lube shop garage.
In addition, Kennedy added that Delta Sonic recently entered into consent agreements with both the DEC and the United States Environmental Protection Agency regarding violation of the Clean Water Act. Pursuant to the terms of the consent agreements, Delta Sonic agreed to pay the $25,363.62 in cleanup costs and an additional $25,000 as a civil penalty to the DEC. In addition, the company agreed to pay $30,000 to the EPA as a civil penalty.
"Today's sentencing together with these consent orders and civil penalties make clear that this office, together with our federal and state partners, take seriously our obligation to protect our community from all threats," said Kennedy. "The quality of our environment is inextricably intertwined with the quality of life for our citizens. We will remain vigilant in our efforts to protect and preserve the precious natural resources with which we here in Western New York have been so richly blessed."
Tuesday's sentencing is the result of an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge Tyler Amon; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, BECI, under the direction of Capt. John Burke; and the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Chief Bryan DalPorto.