200,000 gallons of sewage dumped into Mt. Rainier waterfall

200,000 gallons of sewage dumped into Mt. Rainier waterfall
Mount Rainier (Wikimedia Commons photo by Stan Shebs)
TACOMA, Wash. - A waste treatment operator at Mount Rainier National Park pleaded guilty Friday to dumping 200,000 gallons of sewage over a waterfall and into the Nisqually River, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

James Barber, 52, of Yelm, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

According to court records, Barber worked as an operator of the wastewater treatment plant at Paradise, which is designed to provide advanced secondary treatment of sewage generated at the Paradise Visitor Center before it is discharged into a waterfall that flows into the Nisqually River.

But in his plea agreement, Barber admitted that during spring and summer 2011, he failed to stop the build-up of solid waste in the treatment plant, which clogged filters and disabled the advanced treatment portion of the plant.

Instead of fixing the problem, Barber used a bypass around the advanced treatment section of the plant, allowing minimally treated sewage to be dumped directly into the the waterfall and river, according to court records.

When Barber left work for a few days in August 2011, he did not log the bypass into the log book nor did he inform his co-workers of the bypass or the problem. As a result, some 200,000 gallons of minimally treated sewage flowed into the Nisqually River.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barber is resigning from the National Park Service and is banned from entering Mount Rainier National Park for five years.

He also agreed 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 rest of his life.

He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura on Dec. 14.