Municipal Workers Indicted For Polluting Salmon River

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced the indictment of two Village of Pulaski employees for failure to perform their duties in operating a municipal sewage treatment plant that flowed into one of the state's best known fishing resources.

An investigation last summer by the DEC determined that the two employees, Douglas P. Nobis and Richard A. Fox, operated Pulaski's sewage treatment plant in such an incompetent manner that water discharged from the facility to the river had higher concentrations of pollutants than raw sewage water entering the plant.

"New York is blessed with some of the strongest water quality laws in the nation," said Spitzer. "But as our first line of defense we rely on the dedication and competence of the men and women charged with operating the 500 municipal wastewater treatment plants around the state. My office stands ready at all times to work with Commissioner Cahill and the DEC in prosecuting those who violate this basic public trust."

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "The Salmon River is one of the premier fishing runs in the Northeast and an important water resource in the region. DEC will continue to aggressively pursue those who blatantly violate environmental laws and threaten water quality in the river and the health and safety of the public."

Problems at the Pulaski treatment plant surfaced in the summer of 1999 during a routine inspection of the facility by DEC staffers. An investigation later revealed that Nobis and Fox had regularly fabricated daily and monthly test results that track plant performance and recorded the falsified data on official reports they submitted to DEC as required under the state operating permit for the facility.

A measure of Nobis's and Fox's failure to properly operate the plant is that they failed to realize that a pipe feeding bacteria-killing chlorine to tanks of sewage water inside the plant had been broken for some time resulting in "treated" water discharged to the Salmon River having higher bacteria concentrations than sewage entering the plant.

Nobis and Fox were arraigned today in Oswego County Court before Judge Walter Heifner. Nobis, the operator of the treatment plant, faces 10 counts, including Falsifying Business Records, Offering a False Instrument for Filing, Making False Material Statements in Documents Filed or Maintained Under the Environmental Conservation Law, and Knowingly Discharging Pollutant to Waters of the State. Fox, the assistant plant operator, is charged with three counts of Falsifying Business Records at the plant.

Each of the charges carries a possible sentence of 1-3 years in state prison.

Nobis and Fox have been released on their own recognizance and remain employed by the Village as they await trial.

DEC Investigator James Masuicca and Lt. Woody Erickson investigated the case which is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General David Prior of the Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau.