Sewage company owner facing felony charges: ‘It’s fertilizer, not toxic’

Posted at 9:14 PM, Jun 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-25 23:14:15-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The 2010 deaths of two Layton girls who inhaled pest control poison placed too close to their home has highlighted the dangers of environmental crimes, according to the Salt Lake County Attorney's office.

District attorney Sim Gill said it has given them a renewed interest in similar crimes, and on Tuesday they filed charges against Salt Lake City sewage company A & B Sewer and Drain, alleging its owner illegally dumped thousands of gallons of sewage in September and October of last year.

Company owner Tom Vasiliou said he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong.

"Human waste, it's fertilizer, not toxic,” he said.

According to court documents, Vasiliou emptied a septic tank in the backyard of a property located on Rose Canyon Road in Herriman. The business owner didn’t deny the allegations to FOX 13, but defended them, claiming the property owner allowed it.

“I said, ‘Can I dump this over there?’ And he says, ‘Yeah,’” Vasiliou explained, contending that at the time he did not feel he was doing anything wrong.

The Salt Lake County Attorney’s office, however, disagreed. They have charged Vasiliou and his company with two counts of violating the Water Quality Act, which is a third-degree felony. Because you cannot jail an entity, Gill said including Vasiliou in the charges allows for the possibility of imprisonment.

"It can infect the groundwater, it can leave contaminants behind, and in this case it can be a physical health hazard,” Gill said.

Three photos capturing Vasiliou's company dumping the waste were taken by a Herriman resident on October 1, 2012 and sent to the Salt Lake County Health Department, which is responsible for inspecting the company twice a year.

“Human waste is associated with disease, and that’s a very serious thing,” said Eric Peterson, Enforcement Coordinator for the department.

FOX 13 noticed the inspection stickers on Vasiliou's company trucks were dated 2009. Department officials couldn't tell us if the company was operating without inspection, but they did concede sometimes businesses fall through the cracks.

"That can happen of course if a business doesn't comply and doesn't renew their permit, and the health department is not aware that they're out there,” Peterson said.

Vasiliou contends he does have a proper permit in place, which if true, is now in jeopardy.

According to Gill, each count Vasiliou is charged with carries a maximum sentence of five years.