Morgan City firm, owners charged in wastewater case

The owners of a Morgan City wastewater brokerage were charged Monday in Baton Rouge federal court for alleged participation in a conspiracy that illegally injected more than 380,000 gallons of industrial wastes down a well in Assumption Parish.

An Addis man pleaded guilty May 29 in the same case.

On Monday, Raymond Marcel Jr., 60, of Berwick, and Cyril D. Robicheaux, 53, of Morgan City, were charged with a felony by U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. and Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson. Both Marcel and Robicheaux were accused of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Charged for the same offense was RAM Environmental Services LLC, the Morgan City firm owned by Marcel and Robicheaux.

“They put stuff in that well that was far from hazardous,” said attorney C. Frank Holthaus, who represents the firm and its owners. “It was truck wash, stuff like that.”

Holthaus added, however, that all three of his clients have agreed to plead guilty in the case.

“We’re not fighting this,” Holthaus said. “My clients have cooperated with the government from the beginning and have reached a plea agreement.”

The case was investigated by the criminal investigation divisions of both the EPA and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Cazayoux said in a written statement Monday.

The charge pending against Marcel and Robicheaux carries a possible five-year prison term and possible fine of $250,000 for each man, Cazayoux said. Against RAM, the charge could mean a five-year term of probation for the company and a fine of $250,000.

For its industrial customers, RAM arranges for transportation and disposal of industrial wastes, according to the federal charges.

“The industrial wastewater generated by RAM’s Patterson client consisted of a brownish chemical and water mixture resulting from the processing of used oil,” according to the charge written by Amundson.

The charge also alleges RAM arranged for disposal of wastes from a Morgan City client that generated “a milky white chemical and water mixture resulting from the testing of devices designed to prevent blowouts during oil production.”

But both waste streams were sent to FAS Environmental Services’ injection well at Belle River in Assumption Parish, the charge alleges. FAS was not licensed to dispose of the wastewater from RAM’s two main customers, according to that charge.

And FAS’ owners were not aware that those RAM clients were sending wastewater down its well, Cazayoux said.

According to the charge, that’s because former FAS operations manager Michael J. Vaughn, 33, of Addis, accepted a combined total of $22,893 in kickbacks from Robicheaux and Marcel in 2011 and 2012.

Vaughn pleaded guilty on May 29 and faces the same possible penalties confronting Marcel and Robicheaux.

Edward J. Gonzales III, Vaughn’s attorney, noted Monday that none of the suspect industrial wastes is alleged to have been hazardous.