An arrest has been made in the ongoing investigation into the dumping of hazardous chemicals in Upstate sewage treatment systems.
Timothy Howard, 48, of 259 Victor Hill Road in Greer, was arrested Wednesday evening and charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control issued Howard a cease-and-desist letter on Aug. 23, amid an outbreak of PCB contamination in three Upstate sewer systems. A fourth was later identified. The cease-and-desist order suspended the license of Howard’s company, American Waste Septic Tank Service, after several pieces of equipment were found to be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls. The letter also states several loads of waste were unaccounted for, but Howard said later those discrepancies were corrected.
“This arrest represents only the leading edge of a larger and ongoing criminal investigation,” DHEC Communications Director Mark Plowden said in a written statement. “We will provide updated public information as it becomes available.”
According to warrants obtained by DHEC’s law enforcement branch, Howard lied under oath during a hearing Aug. 9 at Lyman Municipal Court after he was accused of dumping waste into a grease trap behind the old Denny’s restaurant on Highway 29.
During the hearing, Howard said he was called by a property management company and asked to pump the grease trap because a potential leasee was coming to look at the property. According to one warrant, investigation, witness testimony and documents showed the call Howard referenced was from an acquaintance who purchased a cell phone with an Arizona number and left the message posing as a fictitious property management company.
The second warrant claims Howard also lied during the hearing when he said his company, American Waste Septic Tank Service, never hauled any industrial waste or waste oil products in his trucks. He said his company only hauled sewer and grease trap waste. According to the warrant, witness statements and documents show this is false.
Howard was booked into Spartanburg County jail at about 8:40 p.m. Wednesday and was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday.
Alan Johnson, Lyman public works director, said Howard’s hearing was scheduled before the presence of PCBs was discovered. At the time, he was accused of incorrectly discharging into the wastewater treatment system. The PCB contamination was discovered between when the hearing was scheduled and when it took place.
Johnson said while the hearings are generally administrative and done around a conference room table, a judge was asked to preside over Howard’s hearing because of the rapid escalation of the issue and to avoid the appearance of bias. The judge chose to conduct the hearing along more formal guidelines, including the swearing in of witnesses.