Bamberg Sentenced For Wastewater FraudIssue Date: December 22, 2020
In Marinette County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Dec. 15 former Village of Wausaukee Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Lonnie Bamberg, now of Scofield, was ordered by Judge James A. Morrison to pay fine and costs totaling $4,853 after pleading guilty to a sole misdemeanor count of Pollution Fraud/Reports. In a plea bargain agreement, two other counts brought by Wisconsin DNR against Bamberg were dismissed on motion of Prosecuting Attorney Nathaniel E. Adamson.
In issuing his sentence Judge Morrison scolded Bamberg for violating the trust of the people who hired him.
Bamberg had been dismissed from his job as Operator In Charge of the Wausaukee Wastewater Treatment Plant on Nov. 15, 2017, by the late Hilbert "Slug" Radtke, who was then Village President. That action was made official the following day when the Village Board unanimously approved a motion to terminate Bamberg's employment effective immediately, November 16, 2017 at 9:22 a.m., "considering evidence of fraudulent charges and advice from the Village Attorney." Records also state the dismissal was due to "falsification of documents and violating reporting requirements for the WPDES permit."
According to 2017 records, Bamberg had been hired in 2015 and was being trained for the Operator in Charge position by Jeff Mayou, who was also Operator in Charge of the Peshtigo Wastewater Treatment Plant at the time.
The fraudulent reports came to light when Mayou came to the Wastewater Treatment Plant to conduct a mock lab audit, after which Mayou and Radtke met with Bamberg to discuss Mayou's findings and resulting concerns. On Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 a teleconference was held in the office of Village Clerk Sara Pullen between Rick Mealy of the DNR, Radtke, Bamberg and Pullen.
The summary of events from that meeting said that on Nov. 2, 2017 when Mayou attempted to look over the most recent "bench sheets," on September and October tests for total suspended solids and BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) required by the DNR for the wastewater treatment plant permit, the bench sheets were not found.
"There were indications that the tests were not being run, yet monthly reporting on the DMRs was recorded;" the report states. YSI Multilab was inoperable so historical calibrations could not be viewed. At this time, Mayou contacted Radtke to set up a meeting with Bamberg.
According to the officially approved minutes, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 Mayou, Radtke and Bamberg met at the WWTP to discuss findings of the mock audit. Mayou asked Bamberg to produce the missing bench sheets, and Bamberg admitted that no such bench sheets exist. Mayou asked Bamberg if he had performed any analysis since Mayou relinquished overseeing the WWTP and Bamberg admitted he had not. Mayou told Radtke that he must report these findings immediately to Rick Mealy of the DNR.
On Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 Radtke, Bamberg and Pullen had a teleconference with Mealy to inform the DNR of the violations that had occurred at the WWTP lab.
Minutes state that Bamberg admitted he had not performed BOD testing per the WPDES permit "for a while," had not performed TSS testing per the WPDES permit, had falsified test results on the monthly DMR report, and did not send in the certification sample on time, thus the lab had not been certified since Sept. 1.
Mealy stated that not doing the BODs would result in a notice of non-compliance, "but falsification of documents is a much more serious offense." He said the DNR's Enforcement Committee would most likely issue an immediate notice of violation and schedule a monitoring visit to perform an investigation.
Mealy said ramifications of the violations could include the WWTP lab losing all laboratory credibility and Bamberg may have his license revoked. Mealy gave several suggestions for the utility, and said Bamberg's honesty in coming forward would look better to the Enforcement Committee and expedite their investigation.
The Nov. 7, 2017 meeting minutes go on to say that the Village Board reviewed the report from Mayou and listened to the recording of the teleconference. Several board members asked Bamberg why he did not do the testing as required. Bamberg said he was in over his head and was cutting corners to buy time. When asked how long this had been going on, he had said for about a year.
Recent stories, opinions and photos