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Delta Sonic employee pleads guilty in connection to oil discharge into Cayuga Creek

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Michael Yount, 46, of Lancaster, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford to making a materially false statement. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who is handling the case, stated that on July 18, 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation responded to an alleged oil spill in Cayuga Creek in Niagara Falls, NY. The NYS-DEC Spills Unit found a significant amount of suspected waste oil in the creek along Niagara Falls Boulevard near Tuscarora Road and in a large storm sewer water pipe along Niagara Falls Boulevard.
As part of a subsequent investigation, a DEC Environmental Programs Technician began looking into potential sources of the oil discharge—which the Technician estimated to be between 300 and 500 gallon oil spill—and whether a violation of the Clean Water Act had occurred. The Technician contacted the defendant, who was the Environmental Compliance Officer for Delta Sonic Car Wash Systems, Inc., which has a location on Niagara Falls Boulevard, approximately a half a mile from Cayuga Creek. During a meeting at the Delta Sonic location on Niagara Falls Boulevard, the Technician learned that Delta Sonic was renovating the oil change and lube shop garage, which involved the removal of concrete floors by a subcontractor. At that time, Yount stated that there had not been any problems except for a minor spill of approximately two gallons of oil which was immediately cleaned up. 
The Technician returned to Delta Sonic the following day and observed an absorbent boom with oil on it in a storm sewer receiver located in the parking lot outside of the oil change garage. While the Technician was looking into the storm sewer receiver with the defendant, Yount, sought to mislead the Technician by stating that booms were often left in sewers and that the boom in question may have been in there for some time. However, the defendant knew that booms were not often left in the sewers at Delta Sonic and that this boom had been placed in the storm sewer receiver approximately six days earlier.  Such boom had been placed in the storm sewer receiver as a result of a complaint by another Delta Sonic employee that oily wastewater was being pumped into it as a result of the renovation of the Delta Sonic oil change and lube shop garage.
“The Great Lakes, the Niagara River, and its tributaries are among the most precious natural resources in our community,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “We will continue to work vigilantly with our federal, state, and local partners to preserve and protect those valuable resources and to prosecute those whose actions bring them harm.”
“The failure of this defendant to supply accurate and timely information on this spill delayed a speedy response to rectify this environmental threat,” said NYS-DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC’s spill response experts are on the frontlines every day protecting New Yorkers when incidents happen and need correct information to guide on-the-ground remediation efforts. I applaud the work of our DEC Investigators, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York and the Environmental Protection Agency for bringing this case to fruition.”
The plea is the result of an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency –Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent-In-Charge Tyler Amon; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police, BECI, under the direction of Captain John Burke; and the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Chief Bryan DalPorto.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 23, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. before Judge Wolford.