By Alan Collins
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - A criminal investigation is underway looking into how Jefferson County handles and reports sewage overflows to the government.
Special agents with criminal division of the EPA arrived at the Shades Valley facility. This operation is responsible for maintaining sewer lines which is important to containing sewage overflows. Overflows happen when there are heavy rains, grease backup or roots forcing sewage overflows into your house, the street and possibly draining into creeks.
"I can't get into a lot of details, but I can tell you we are searching for records and documents things like that," Maureen O'Mara, Special Agent with EPA said.
A subpoena was given to David Denard, the director of Environmental Services Wednesday morning. Jefferson County officials confirm special agents are confiscating computers and are seeking emails of certain county employees. About a half dozen names of county workers were included in the subpoena. "Federal criminal environmental violations. So federal law has been broken at some point or another. We have reason to believe that," O'Mara said
Jefferson County Commissioners were not named in the subpoena, but they were caught off guard by the federal probe. "This is devastating to be served this type of document. However we are going to cooperate totally. I have all the faith in the world in the people running the department, "Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carns said.
Overflow problems have plagued Jefferson County for years. The county is under a federal consent decree to fix the problem. Environmental Services has reduced overflows from billions of gallons to millions of gallons, but overflows have jumped in recent years.
"We are still going to have overflows. If we have the most perfect system in the world, and we are attempting to have that, we are still going to have overflows. Things happen," Carns said.
County officials believe their overflow reports given each month to EPA are correct. Federal investigators will determine if that is true or not.
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