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Man pleads guilty to dumping millions of gallons of waste

| Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012

A Greene County businessman pleaded guilty on Thursday to 13 of 98 charges of illegally dumping millions of gallons of waste across Western Pennsylvania counties for more than six years.

Robert Allan Shipman, 50, of 1487 Toms Run Road, Holbrook, entered the plea before Greene County Judge Farley Toothman to one count each of theft by deception, receiving stolen property, tampering with public records or information and criminal conspiracy; five counts of unlawful conduct; and four counts of pollution of waters.

The open guilty pleas were entered by both Robert Allan Shipman and Allan's Waste Water Service Inc.

The plea agreement also stipulates that Shipman pay a $100,00 fine and all court costs. Shipman is also required to pay a $25,000 nondeductible donation to an environmental group, according to The Associated Press.

The company's plea includes the same counts and requires that it pay restitution of $257,316.

The agreement requires proof that Shipman and his wife have divested themselves entirely of Allan's Waste Water Service Inc. and Tri-County Waste Water Management Inc.

The prosecution will recommend a standard range sentence for Shipman, and sentencing is expected in 30 to 60 days.

The state attorney general's office said Shipman, through his company, Allan's Waste Water Services Inc., orchestrated a scheme to dump gas drilling wastewater and sewage sludge into streams, mine shafts and business properties in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties between 2003 and 2009.

Through overbilling and illegal dumping, Shipman stole more than $250,000 from clients, according to prosecutors.

A grand jury found that Shipman and his company were hired to haul away and dispose of wastewater products, including water from gas drilling operations, sludge from sewage treatment plants and grease water from restaurants.

But Shipman instructed drivers to mix various wastes together into a "cocktail," and then dump the mixture illegally. Drivers were told to leave their water valves open at gas wells to allow production water to flow onto the ground and into nearby waterways. This typically happened after dark or during heavy rains for concealment, prosecutors said.

Drivers were told to park their vehicles in the garage at Shipman's business and dump the water into a floor drain, which led to a nearby stream.

After Shipman's arrest last year, the state Department of Environmental Protection suspended the hauling permit for Allan's Waste Water Service, as well as the operating permit for Shipman's other company, Tri-County Waste Water.

Those permits remain suspended, DEP spokesman John Poister said. A company has approached DEP officials about operating the facilities, but has not officially informed the agency about its intention to seek a permit, he added.

DEP conducted a study to investigate changes in the algae in Ten Mile Creek in Greene County, one of the affected waterways, Poister said.

As a result of the dumping, total dissolved solids in the water were raised to the point that characteristics of the algae changed to resemble the level found in salt water.

Poister said the problem has improved since the dumping stopped.

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