Mendenhall sewage treatment plant superintendent Andrew Bronson pleaded innocent Wednesday to two felony counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act in his capacity as wastewater utility superintendent in 1998. He was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. The trial is set for April 23.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, according to Kevin Feldis of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage.
A federal grand jury indictment returned Dec. 12 says Bronson received a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May 1998 identifying several violations of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for the Mendenhall plant and threatening penalties. A few months later he "knowingly tampered with and rendered inaccurate a monitoring method ... in an effort to ensure that the monitoring results reported to the EPA did not exceed the NPDES permit limits," according to the indictment.
The Juneau Assembly recently gave Bronson a vote of confidence by agreeing in principle to pick up the costs of his defense. Based on comments by City Attorney John Corso and City Manager Dave Palmer, a "chain of events" supports Bronson's innocence and calls into question the motives of the EPA and the U.S. Attorney's Office, Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon said.
Bronson will be liable to repay the city if he's found guilty, according to Corso.
In a separate case, the city is working with the EPA to resolve claims the city dumped raw and partially treated sewage into the Mendenhall River and Gastineau Channel in 1999.