City Employee Pleaded Guilty After Submitting False Environmental Tests

At a hearing on Thursday, Jay Earnest Niday, who worked with the Sioux City Wastewater Treatment Plant, pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy and knowingly tampering with Clean Water Act (CWA) monitoring. The Northern District of Iowa matter accused Niday of altering environmental tests.

The judgment, which was filed on Friday, stated that Niday was ordered to pay any fines that are determined by the court and will be imprisoned for 3 months, a concurrent sentence for each of the counts. Following those three months, he will be on supervised release for the next two years and will have to show he is making payments towards the fines. Among the fines, the defendant was ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution and $2,500 in attorney fees for his court-appointed counsel. 

According to the information filed in Sept. 2020, the plant involved in the lawsuit receives wastewater from municipalities in three different states and “at least 20 significant industrial users throughout ‘Siouxland,’” and treats a lot of “high-strength wastewater.” The treated water from the plant is released into the Missouri River, which means it is subject to laws related to the CWA.

During what is known as the “disinfection season,” when the waters are more likely to be used for recreational uses, the city is required to do additional monitoring and frequent tests, specifically five tests each month for fecal coliform. The Sept. document said that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources trust its plants to report proper numbers and follow monitoring and reporting requirements under their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit.

The defendant was accused of sending fraudulent samples to the lab for testing and reporting the fraudulent reports between 2012 and June 2015, thus violating permits and the CWA. Because the tests were not effective, only small amounts of liquid chlorine were added, which was reportedly “clearly insufficient” to ensure that the waters did not exceed the limits for fecal coliform or E.Coli.

Niday’s lawyers argued against an “upward adjustment” based on allegations that he abused the public trust and purported that his sentence should be reduced based on his age, lack of criminal history, lack of need to protect the public, the nature of the offence, and his participation.

Niday is represented by the Greer Law Office and the United States is represented by the Department of Justice.