Natrona County Portable Toilet Business Fined $50,000; Has Water Shut Off
A portable toilet company in Natrona County had its water temporarily shut off and faces nearly $50,000 in fines for illegally dumping waste into a sewer system numerous times over the past year, according to the Wardwell Water & Sewer District.
The district's elected board of directors voted unanimously last week to shut off the water supply to Shawn's Johns and its owner Shawn Nash, 3270 Salt Creek Highway, after the third notice of violation and the possible threat to public health.
Kyle Ridgeway, attorney for the Water & Sewer District, said Monday the water was shut off from Wednesday through Friday, and was restored on the condition the water be used only for residential purposes.
If violations persist, the board will order plugging the sewer lines, which would not affect neighbors, but it would be costly.
Nash referred questions to his attorney Andrew Sears of the Casper firm Murane & Boswick. Thursday, Smith declined to comment because of the pending litigation.
Hiring an attorney was the first time Nash responded to multiple opportunities to present his side of the story before the district, which serves Bar Nunn and nearby communities. He also did not appear twice in Natrona County District Court for hearings for a preliminary injunction.
The case began a year ago when district manager Gloria Brainard saw Shawn's Johns improperly disposing human waste from its portable toilets directly into the sewer system, according to a civil complaint filed in Natrona County District Court. "Upon this observation, Ms. Brainard spoke with Mr. Nash and explained to him that this constituted illegal dumping in violation of numerous environmental rules, including, but not limited to, Wardwell's Sewer Use Regulations."
A company such as Nash's must take its waste to the Sam H. Hobbs Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant east of Casper that has the equipment to handle large amounts of human waste.
The effect of each illegal mass dump of the portable toilets on the 8-inch sewer line is the equivalent of a 50-home subdivision emptying all of its bathtubs at once. We're not talking about bathwater here, however.
After learning of the violation last year, the Central Wyoming Regional Water System installed a flow meter installed immediately downstream from Shawn's Johns.
The flow meter, another observation by Brainard and complaints about smells from neighbors revealed more illegal dumping on April 16.
Wardwell then issued a Notice of Violation and Order to Cease and Desist. Wardwell also asked Nash to appear at an informal hearing on May 8. He didn't show up and did not request a hearing to respond to the notice.
He hadn't responded by June 5, so the Wardwell board ordered a $500 administrative fine and a $5,000 civil fine against Nash. Those amounts were half of what the board could have imposed.
The board also asked Ridgeway to pursue an injunction through Natrona County District Court for the violations.
Nash didn't quit.
Illegal dumping was detected on May 31 and June 12, which prompted the Wardwell board to issue a second notice of violation.
Nash didn't respond to the second notice or for an opportunity to appear in court to defend himself.
On July 6, the board issued a third notice of violation. (The second notice of violation had four individual violations, and the third had two, with one of those overlapping with the second.)
On July 9, District Court Judge Catherine Wilking held a second hearing and upheld a previous preliminary injunction.
After the hearing, Brainard said the Wardwell Water & Sewer District never had such a problem in its history.
Ridgeway said he wasn't qualified to comment on whether such dumping posed an immediate threat to human health, but said the case could warrant a look by the EPA.
On Tuesday, the board held its monthly meeting and had asked Nash to appear at its meeting to discuss the violations.
Nash didn't show.
So the board slammed down the lid.
In addition to the previous $500 and $5,000 fines, the board fined him the maximum $1,000 each for the four administrative violations and fined him the maximum $10,000 for each for the civil violations.
The total $49,500 in fines does not include the additional costs for cleaning out the sewer line, attorney's and other fees.
Besides the money, board members agreed that any further violation will result in plugging the sewer line.
That's far more than the $7,000 to $12,000 a year Nash is probably saving by the illegal dumping, board member Mark Pepper said.
The dumping could cause a major problem if portable toilet waste with its disinfectant in a large volume damaged a lift station between Bar Nunn and the wastewater treatment plant, Pepper said.
Likewise, a large amount the disinfectant put in the toilets could kill the good bacteria that render the bad bacteria harmless at the plant, which would render useless the treatment of waste water, Pepper said.