Feds join Seymour sewage spill investigation

The investigation into the Christmas Day sewer break that sent thousands of gallons of wastewater into the Naugatuck River continues, with federal officials joining Seymour police in looking into possible sabotage.

According to Seymour Police Lt. Paul Satkowski, the local department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are conducting a joint investigation into the leak, including reviewing documents and conducting interviews.

“We’re in the early stages right now, with a lot of legwork in front of us,” Satkowski said. “We’re going to determine if it was sabotage or not, and if it was, the saboteur can be facing federal charges, in addition to our criminal charges.”

Environmental crime

The inclusion of the EPA means that federal investigators from the Justice Department could become involved in the case, possibly levying environmental charges in addition to local criminal charges in the event that there was sabotage.

In fact, the federal Justice Department’s website lists sewer tampering as one of the specific acts that would bring the EPA’s law enforcement powers into play.

“A typical environmental crime — such as the knowing discharge of raw sewage to one of our nation’s waterways or the killing of a bald eagle — is investigated by Special Agents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, by Special Agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service, or by one of our other investigative partners,” states the Justice Department. website.

The site further claims that during the past 15 years, the federal agency has prosecuted more than 1,000 individuals for environmental crimes, leading to 729 years of incarceration and $740 million in fines.

Naugatuck River sewer break

The Christmas Day break resulted in about 30,000 gallons of sewage spilling into the Naugatuck River, which is listed as a Trophy Trout Stream by the state.

Reports from Veolia Water Co., the management company that operates the Seymour wastewater facility, indicate that cleanup crews found hundreds of industrial paper towels crammed into the pipe, along with numerous large rocks. The Veolia report said it was “unlikely” that either could gotten there from being flushed down a toilet.

Investigators also found a cell phone in the break, though it is unknown who the phone belongs to or if the owner is connected with the break.