State charges local company for dumping wastewater and sludge
Marcellus Shale waste released throughout six-county region
March 18, 2011 8:00 AM
Robert Allan Shipman
By Jonathan D. Silver Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
State prosecutors charged a Greene County man Thursday with illegally dumping millions of gallons of Marcellus Shale wastewater, sewer sludge and greasy restaurant slop in holes, mine shafts and waterways in a six-county region from 2003 to 2009.
"He was pouring the stuff in any hole he could find," said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the attorney general's office.
All the while, an investigating grand jury indicated, Robert Allan Shipman was building his bank account, earning up to $7 million a year, according to the presentment.
The grand jury recommended 98 criminal charges against Mr. Shipman, 49, of New Freeport and 77 counts against his company, Allan's Waste Water Service Inc. for their alleged actions -- sometimes under cover of darkness or during heavy rains -- in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
"This was a calculated and long-running scheme to personally profit by illegally dumping wastewater, regardless of the potential for environmental damage," acting Attorney General Bill Ryan said in a statement.
Mr. Frederiksen said it was one of the largest dumping cases in recent memory.
Mr. Shipman's attorney denied the allegations and claimed they stemmed from the testimony of disgruntled former employees.
"Allan never did any of this personally as some of the witnesses accused him, nor did he ever instruct any of his drivers to improperly dispose of any wastewater," attorney Christopher Blackwell said.
"Whether or not they did that, we don't know. Whether or not they did some of this on their own to avoid the long lines that are at some of those disposal facilities, we don't know."
Notable in the nine-page presentment from the grand jury is the mention of Dunkard Creek, site of a massive 2009 fish kill over a 30-mile stretch along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.
Drivers for Mr. Shipman's company testified that they and their boss emptied tanker trucks with drilling waste into a floor drain that led to Tom's Run which, according to the presentment, empties into to Dunkard Creek.
Drivers also testified they disposed of some waste by "cocktailing," or mixing a variety of wastes, in a variety of locations, including Morris Run air shaft in Consol Energy's abandoned Blacksville No. 2 mine.
The shaft leads to a mine pool, "which ultimately discharges into Dunkard Creek," the presentment said.
Consol has a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to dump "production water" -- water that emerges from a well along with natural gas and is then separated -- into the Morris Run air shaft, according to the presentment.
However, the grand jury alleged, Mr. Shipman's company does not have the DEP's OK to discharge waste into Morris Run or Dunkard creeks.
The EPA announced this week that Consol would pay a $5.5 million civil penalty to settle hundreds of Clean Water Act violations at six of its West Virginia mines, including pollution discharges that contributed to the Dunkard fish kill.
Mr. Frederiksen said investigators did not establish a cause-and-effect link between Mr. Shipman's alleged discharges and the fish kill.
"You can't say he killed X number of fish. But did he play a role in compromising the quality of Dunkard Creek and other waterways in the area? No doubt about it."
Despite the charges, and despite the fact that a tip from a former state environmental regulator helped launch the investigation, the state Department of Environmental Protection had not suspended or revoked the company's waste transportation safety authorization as of late Thursday afternoon.
The company was open for business, according to its attorney.
"Allan's Waste Water Service continues to operate on a day-to-day basis and serve its customers well," lawyer Christopher Capozzi said.
Katy Gresh, a DEP spokeswoman, said a permit review is under way. Dep staff first learned Thursday the extent of the allegations against Mr. Shipman and his company, she said.
The investigation began after the Cecil Township Municipal Authority, which produces sludge byproduct from treating sewage, found discrepancies during an audit between the amount of sludge received by Mr. Shipman's company and the amount it disposed. More than 170,000 gallons of sludge were unaccounted for.
Mr. Shipman is also accused of overbilling his customers by falsifying manifests. and directing his workers to mix the various types of wastewater they hauled before delivering it to unsuspecting treatment plants.
Mr. Shipman's company was paid by a variety of businesses to haul their waste. In some cases, waste was legitimately delivered to treatment plants, Mr. Frederiksen said. But millions of gallons were not, he alleged.
Mr. Shipman would sometimes charge companies for more than he actually hauled. And by having his drivers mix the wastes, he misrepresented what was being given to the treatment plants, the presentment said.
Mr. Shipman could not be reached. His wife declined to comment.
But Mr. Blackwell said his client was the victim of testimony to the grand jury by disgruntled former workers.
"They felt they weren't making enough money or they were fired by him because they weren't working the hours that they claimed," Mr. Blackwell said.
Mr. Shipman turned himself in Thursday to state police. He was arraigned before posting a $50,000 bond.
Charges against Mr. Shipman include participating in a corrupt organization, criminal conspiracy, pollution of waters, money laundering and violation of the state's Clean Streams Law.