Waste Hauler Accused of Illegal Dumping

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
18 March 2011
By Tara Kinsell, Staff writer

WAYNESBURG - A well-known Greene County waste hauler and his corporation were charged Thursday with illegally dumping millions of gallons of wastewater from natural gas drilling, sewage sludge and restaurant grease into streams and mine shafts in a six-county area.

After a two-year investigation, the state attorney general's office filed 98 criminal counts against Robert Allan Shipman, 50, of 432 Renner Creek Road, New Freeport, and 77 counts against his company, Allan's Waste Water Service Inc. of 1487 Toms Run Road, Holbrook.

"This was a calculated and long-running scheme to personally profit by illegally dumping wastewater, regardless of the potential for environmental damage," said acting Attorney General Bill Ryan.

Shipman is accused of orchestrating a scheme to dump waste products into streams, mine shafts and business properties across Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Proecutors said the activities took place between 2003 and 2009.

Charges include participating in a corrupt organization, criminal conspiracy, theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, pollution of waters, tampering with public records and violations of the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, Solid Waste Management Act and Fish and Boat Codes.

According to grand jury testimony, Shipman and his company were hired by multiple businesses in the region to haul and dispose of wastewater by-products.

Several former employees testified that Shipman instructed them to mix various wastewater products together in what they referred to as a "cocktail" and then dump that mixture at various locations throughout the region. Ryan said the reason behind the cocktail was to conceal the true contents of the wastewater, allowing it to be disposed of in an improper manner, as well as to increase the volume of disposals that were billed to various customers.

According to the grand jury, Shipman directed his drivers to falsify manifests so his company could bill customers for the full capacity of their trucks, regardless of the amount of waste actually being transported and disposed of.

Agents from the attorney general's office said they identified forged manifests for numerous businesses operating in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including Penneco Oil Co., American Oil and Gas, Luzerne Township Sewage Authority, Menallen Township Sewer Authority, Washington Penn Plastics and others.

Ryan said Shipman is accused of stealing in excess of $250,000 from clients as a result of the over-billing practices.

April Morris, a former administrative assistant for Shipman's company, told the grand jury she was often instructed by Shipman to shred or discard the customer's copy of the manifest. She said Shipman would then instruct her to complete blank manifests with fraudulent information regarding the quantity of waste hauled, sign drivers' names to the manifests and send the manifests to customers.

Testimony by former drivers indicated that Allan's Waste Water was responsible for transporting and disposing of production water from gas wells owned and operated by CNX Gas. According to the drivers, CNX's gas wells began to generate more production water in the summer of 2007 than the company was capable of handling.

"It is a lot of information we need to digest," said Shipman's attorney, Christopher Blackwell of Washington. "Our contention has always been that this is a group of disgruntled employees who have made these accusations."

Blackwell said it appears the case is going to come down to the credibility of the witnesses who may have "an ax to grind with Allan Shipman."

The drivers told the grand jury that Shipman showed them how to leave water valves open at gas wells in order to allow production water to flow onto the ground and into nearby waterways. The drivers said this was typically done after dark or during heavy rains in order to conceal the illegal discharge.

Areas where Shipman is alleged to have directed wastewater to be dumped include Green Hill Tank Farm along Rush Run in Greene County, Morris Run Creek and Rush Run. It was further alleged by the former employees that Shipman directed them to dump residual wastewater left in the trucks at the end of the day down a drain at his business. The drain leads to Tom's Run, a tributary of Dunkard Creek.

It is also alleged that Shipman directed waste products to be dumped into the Morris Run air shaft at the abandoned Blacksville No. 1 Mine along Morris Run Creek in Brave. Consol Energy is permitted by the EPA to dump production water into the Morris Run shaft via a series of piping inlets. The airshaft leads to a mine pool that ultimately discharges into Dunkard Creek, according to Samuel Harper, DEP Water Management Environmental Program manager, who verified that Shipman and his company were not permitted to discharge waste into that location.

The criminal charges filed Thursday carry substantial prison terms upon conviction, along with fines in excess of $1.5 million for Shipman and $1.2 million for his company.

Blackwell said the defense is in the process of interviewing drivers from the company who have indicated that Shipman never directed them to do any of the things alleged in the complaint. Blackwell said these witnesses have also said that they never witnessed Shipman illegally dumping anything.

"There were a number of documents found in the trucks that Allan was unaware of what the drivers were doing while they were out," Blackwell said. "Maybe the lines at the dumping facilities were so long that they didn't feel like waiting in line there."

Christopher M. Capozzi, attorney for Allan's Waster Water Services Inc., had no comment.

Shipman is free on $500,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 6-7 before District Judge Glenn Bates.