Wastewater Case Draws Guilty Plea - Washington PA  Observer Reporter - 10 February 2012

2/10/2012 3:32 AM

By Jon Stevens, Staff writer


WAYNESBURG - Robert Allan Shipman of New Freeport, former owner of Allan's Waste Water Service Inc., entered an open guilty plea in Greene County Court Thursday to 13 counts stemming from a two-year investigation by the state attorney general's office that he illegally dumped millions of gallons of wastewater from natural gas drilling, sewage sludge and restaurant grease into streams and mine shafts in a six-county area.

The charges include one count each of theft by deception, receiving stolen property and tampering with public records or information; five counts of unlawful conduct; three counts of pollution of waters; and one count of criminal conspiracy.

Judge Farley Toothman deferred sentencing pending the completion of a presentence report.

Shipman, 50, 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. Prosecutors said the activities took place between 2003 and 2009.

Agents from the state attorney general's office also claim 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.

Shipman underwent an extensive plea colloquy from his attorney, Christopher Blackwell of  Washington; Deputy Attorney General Amy Carnicella; and Toothman.

In all instances, Shipman said he understood he was giving up his right to a jury trial, was entering his plea voluntarily and knowingly and was pleading guilty to the charges as outlined by Carnicella.

The theft by deception charge is a third-degree felony and Shipman admitted that from June 2006 to December 2007, he either obtained or withheld money in excess of $2,000 from a host of businesses, including All Clad Metal Crafters, Allegheny Energy Supply Co., American Oil and Gas, Cecil Township Municipal Authority, North Strabane Township Municipal Authority, CNX Gas and others, "by fraudulently billing for waste disposal services not rendered."

Also a third-degree felony, the receiving stolen property charge involved Shipman receiving in excess of $2,000 from additional companies, including many listed in the theft charge, "knowing it had been stolen" and having no intention of returning the money.

The tampering charge alleges Shipman, from June 2006 to December 2007, made false entries in manifests used by Cecil Township Municipal Authority, Franklin Township Municipal Authority, Waynesburg Municipal Authority and Washington-East Washington Joint Authority, to prepare discharge monitor reports submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The five counts of unlawful conduct claim Shipman, from 2003 to 2009, failed to comply with DEP regulations and permitted gas well production water to be discharged into Rush Run in Center Township, Greene County; Morris Run in Wayne Township, Greene County; Toms Run in Jackson Township, Greene County; tributaries leading to Dunkard Creek, Wayne Township, Greene County; and Pigeon Run, Fallowfield Township, Washington County.

Shipman also pleaded guilty to four counts of pollution of waters in that he allowed gas well production water "that is poisonous to fish," to flow into Morris Run, Blackville No. 1 mine pool, Toms Run and Dunkard Creek tributaries.

With respect to criminal conspiracy, Shipman pleaded guilty to conspiring with one or more people to commit the crimes outlined in the previous 12 counts.

It was noted during the proceeding Shipman no longer is affiliated with Allan's Waste Water Service and as part of the plea, Shipman is to provide the attorney general's office with evidence he and his wife, Carolyn, have divested themselves entirely of both Allan's Waste Water Service Inc. and Tri-County Waste Water Management.

Moreover, both Shipman and his wife must agree at sentencing that neither of them will apply for or obtain DEP permits for any "conduct relating to environmental activity in Pennsylvania."

Also at the time of sentencing, Shipman is to pay a $100,000 fine, $90,000 of which will go to the Pennsylvania Clean Water Fund and $10,000 to the state Fish and Boat Commission.

The plea agreement with Allan's Waste Water Service Inc. provides the company will pay $257,316.04 to the Greene County Clerk of Courts and make a $25,000 nondeductible charitable contribution to the attorney general's office toward an environmental organization of its choosing.