Caldwell dumped septage directly into sewers, faces restitution

Longview, Wash., pumping contractor Ray Caldwell was sentenced this week to serve 27 months in prison and pay a $250,000 fine in connection with convictions related to years of illegal dumping – and he still faces potential restitution payments of almost $2 million. 

U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle handed down the prison sentence and fine. In May, Caldwell will return to court when Settle determines how much money he will have to pay to local municipalities who lost out on disposal fees.

During a trial for 25 felony counts of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act, six counts of mail fraud and two counts of making false statements, Caldwell, 60, admitted to dumping waste into the sewer at least 75 times in the summer of 2012, acts caught on surveillance videos. He was arrested while pumping the contents of the holding tank directly into the sewer. Caldwell was convicted of all charges.

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According to the U.S. Attorney in the district, Caldwell’s long history of illegal dumping continued even after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials raided his business in 2012.

Caldwell was accused of pumping septage directly into the city sewer system to avoid paying dumping fees. The repeated incidents threatened public health by potentially overloading a municipal treatment system and allowed Caldwell to avoid paying an estimated $300,000 in disposal fees.

During testimony in the case, Caldwell said he pumped trucks into a 10,000-gallon storage tank rather than haul it to a treatment plant. According to news accounts, he pumped what he described as the “gray water,’’ which he likened to “laundry water, tub water kitchen water and sink water,’’ into the sewer system. He told the court he didn’t think he was dumping a regulated substance for free. “It never occurred to me. I just thought it was water,’’ Caldwell said in his testimony.

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According to the website, which has covered the case extensively, Settle called Caldwell a greedy businessman, ordered him to participate in a moral reconation therapy program and asked him to admit his wrongdoing to family and friends who supported him.

“I want to encourage you to really level with all of these people … and say, ‘I’ve had to look inside myself and say what I’ve done warranted the government coming after me, and I’m not an innocent man,’ ” quoted Settle. “You knew what you were doing was wrong.”

It was not known when Caldwell would start serving the prison sentence.

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