Environmental Services Company to Pay Over $650,000 to Settle Alleged Violations Under False Claims and Clean Water Acts
AG Alleges National Water Main Cleaning Co. Submitted False Claims and Records to Waltham, Framingham and Boston Water and Sewer Commission; Illegally Discharged Sewage and Wastewater
DEDHAM – A Canton-based environmental services company has agreed to pay more than $650,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging it submitted false bills and records on multiple public contracts for sewer, storage tank and catch basin cleaning, maintenance and repair, and illegally discharged sewage and wastewater, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The complaint, filed in Norfolk Superior Court, alleges National Water Main Cleaning Co. (NWMC) violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act in connection with contracts it held with Waltham, Framingham and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC). The complaint also alleges that NWMC violated the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act by discharging sewage and wastewater into the waters of the Commonwealth without a valid permit.
“Our office will vigorously pursue companies that submit false and inflated bills and records to public entities in order to increase their own profit,” AG Coakley said. “It is disappointing that a company dedicated to environmental services violated state laws designed to ensure a clean and safe environment. NWMC has agreed to put measures in place to prevent this from happening again.”
“Sewage, sludge and polluted wastewater must be disposed of at treatment facilities, where these materials can be properly filtered and cleansed,” said Commissioner David W. Cash of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Dumping these materials onto the ground can cause pollutants to seep into groundwater and adversely impact the integrity of aquifers. This Clean Waters Act case sends the message that it pays to manage waste materials properly.”
The complaint alleges NWMC improperly billed Waltham and BWSC for disposal of waste removed from sewers, catch basins, manholes and pipes under a 2008 contract with Waltham, and for sewer work in several Boston neighborhoods under contracts from 2008 to 2010 with the BWSC.
The complaint also alleges NWMC overbilled Framingham in connection with a 2009 contract to remove grease from underground storage tanks by filling remaining space in its trucks with water before taking the vehicles to get weighed.
In 2010, in connection with a BWSC contract to inspect and repair leaky sewer laterals and drain pipes, NWMC also allegedly falsified dye tests intended to indicate whether repairs were actually necessary and then took improper shortcuts on contractually-required repairs.
The complaint further alleges NWMC emptied sewage sludge and wastewater from its tanker trucks directly onto the ground surface behind its Canton facility, including on the dirt parking area and adjacent woods. It also allegedly operated a faulty catch basin where employees routinely washed vehicles, causing wastewater to overflow into the dirt parking area and seep into surrounding soil and groundwater.
Under the terms of the settlement, NWMC will pay $405,000 to resolve the allegations it violated the state’s False Claims Act and $250,000 in civil penalties to resolve allegations it violated the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act, of which $75,000 will be paid to the Massachusetts Natural Resource Damages Trust.
NWMC will also be required to impose revised protocols concerning proper waste disposal and to provide environmental compliance training for its employees.
AG Coakley’s investigation of NWMC arose out of a whistleblower lawsuit filed in Norfolk Superior Court in 2012.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Betsy Harper and Peter Downing of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Division, and Assistant Attorney General Gillian Feiner of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Investigative and technical assistance on the Clean Waters Act components of the case were provided by Rich Tomczyk, Steve Spencer and Tim Dame of MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force and Oscar Pancorbo of MassDEP’s Wall Experiment Station.