I’ll just get down and dirty and say it:
Everyone has used a portable toilet at least once in their life.
OK – if you haven’t used them, you’ve certainly seen them.
Portable toilets perform a necessary role in our lives.
If you don’t know what I mean, just think of the alternative:
Thousands of people attending an outdoor rock concert with no place to relieve themselves except…
Construction crews working on the house next door with nowhere to go except…
You’re walking through the park and simultaneously realize that you didn’t use the bathroom before you left home and you need to go now…
In every instance, portable toilets are the much better alternative.
So we have multitudinous reasons to be grateful to the companies that provide this service.
And I am, especially when I think the challenges these companies deal with. They’re in the business of providing a place for, and then picking up and removing, and then disposing of…
Our human waste.
And there are guidelines for disposing of that waste. The portable toilets’ contents must be disposed of at authorized sanitation cleaning facilities that will treat the waste safely and sanitarily. Related fees are paid by the portable toilet providers.
With this exception:
Diamond Environmental Services (DES) in San Marcos, CA.
From 2009 to 2016, DES owner Eric De Jong and Chief Operating Officer Warren Van Dam used an alternative system they’d devised to avoid those authorized sanitation cleaning facilities and related fees:
They dumped the waste into municipal sewer lines.
At all five of their facilities in Southern California.
Of course, this arrangement was unknown to the municipal sewer districts. Which meant that for years, the districts (read: we taxpayers) were paying for the waste treatment, rather than DES paying.
How much illegal disposal was happening?
At just one of those facilities, on just four days in June 2016, DES employees dumped the contents of 15 to 19 900-gallon-capacity trucks of portable toilet waste each day into the sewer. Multiply that by five facilities and seven years and…
That’s a lot of shit.
And it’s some serious shit, because we’re talking about breaking a federal law.
Facing felony charges, in 2017 owner De Jong pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months in federal prison. Van Dam pleaded guilty to similar criminal counts. In 2018 De Jong was ordered to report to federal prison in July, and was also handed a $15,000 fine and three years’ probation. Van Dam received five years’ probation and 250 hours of community service.
The two men and DES combined were ordered to pay a fine of $2.64 million and $2.25 million in restitution to five different sanitation agencies. The company also forfeited $2.2 million in illegal profits.
These guys were in deep shit.
But apparently not deep enough, because one week – just one week – after the sentencing, as many as two dozen FBI agents descended on two DES locations, searching for proof that the company was also skirting clean-air rules.
Yup – just as seen on TV: Men and women with “FBI” in big letters on the backs of their jackets, looking super-serious, hauling boxes and computers out of a building.
So that was May 2018. Fast forward to April 2019:
Specifically, on April 11 De Jong and Van Dam were indicted on “a slew of felonies” related to tampering with emission control devices on their fleet of diesel trucks.
Whew! Simultaneous felonies!
This time the felonies had to do with electronic control modules – ECMs – which have been required by the EPA in all heavy-duty diesel trucks since model year 2008. ECMs warn if the trucks’ emissions filters become too dirty.
And, our boys are charged not only with tampering – that is, removing the ECMs from their trucks and shipping them out of state to be reprogrammed, allowing the company to avoid the costs of removing soot and other particulate matter from the trucks’ filters.
They’re also accused of having employees punch holes in some of the trucks’ dirty filters to allow air to flow through without filtration, and prepare false smog test results to ensure trucks that were not operating properly could pass muster.
So, first – dumping their waste into our municipal sewers. Second – modifying their trucks to pollute our air.
I don’t know how the charges against DES came about. Perhaps there was – if you’ll excuse the expression – a stool pigeon in their midst?
I do know that when words like the “United States Department of Justice” and “a federal grand jury” and “six-count indictment” are involved…
That these guys are in…