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Operator of the wastewater treatment at Mount Rainier National Park pleads guilty | U.S. District Court

The operator of the wastewater treatment plant at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park pleaded guilty today to violating the Clean Water Act in August 2011, when he allowed hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage to run into the Nisqually River.  Jamesƒ Barber, 52, of Yelm, Washington, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barber is giving up his certification to operate a wastewater facility and is resigning from the Park Service.  Barber is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura on December 14, 2012.

According to records filed in the case, Barber worked as an operator of the Paradise Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The plant is part of the facilities of Mount Rainier National Park.  It treats wastewater generated at the Paradise Visitor Center and Paradise Inn.  The treatment plant is designed to provide advanced secondary treatment before the waste is discharged into a drainage ditch that flows into a waterfall. The waterfall flows into the Nisqually River.  In his plea agreement Barber admits that during spring and summer 2011, he failed to stop the build-up of solid waste in the treatment plant.  The filters became clogged and the advanced treatment portion of the plant would not operate properly.  Instead of fixing the problem, Barber used a by-pass around the advanced treatment and surge storage tank.  As a result minimally treated sewage was dumped directly into the drainage ditch and flowed into the waterfall and Nisqually River.  Barber left work for a few days on August 27, 2011, and did not log the by-pass into the log book and did not inform his co-workers of the by-pass or the problem.  As a result between August 27 and August 30, 2011, some 200,000 gallons of minimally treated sewage flowed into the Nisqually River.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barber is banned from entering Mount Rainier National Park for five years.  He also agrees not to seek employment in any job related to wastewater treatment for five years, and will not seek certifications, licenses or permits related to wastewater or drinking water treatment for the remainder of his life.

The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Criminal Investigations.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Diggs.

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