Bozeman men plead guilty in USA Brass lead-contamination case

Posted at 11:34 AM, Aug 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-10 13:34:14-04

BOZEMAN – Both the CEO and Chief Production Officer of USA Brass pleaded guilty to charges related to reported lead-contaminated wastewater that was discharged into the City of Bozeman’s sewer system in 2013.

Zachary Daniel Flanagan and Nolan Michael Schimpf appeared before U.S. Magistrate Jerimiah Lynch during plea hearings held in Missoula on August 2 and August 9.

Flanagan, of Bozeman, was the former Chief Executive Officer of USA Brass. He pleaded guilty to a felony false statement offense for making false representations to the pretreatment coordinator for the City of Bozeman’s Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) regarding the nature of lead-contaminated industrial wastewater generated by USAB to gain permission to discharge the wastewater into the city’s sewer system.

Flanagan pled guilty to that he falsely stated in a November 2013 email to the pretreatment coordinator that USAB’s laboratory analysis of the wastewater had been reviewed by an environmental consultant who concluded that the lead-contaminated wastewater “would be fine to send down the sewer.”  

Flanagan admitted that the statement was false because the consultant had not reviewed analytical results and had not concluded that the wastewater was suitable for discharge to the city sewer.  Sentencing for Flanagan is scheduled for November 15, 2018.

Nolan Michael Schimpf, of Bozeman, was the former Chief Production Officer of USA Brass. Schimph pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count under the federal Clean Water Act for negligently discharging the lead-contaminated wastewater into the Bozeman POTW without authorization from September 2013 to December 2013, in violation of the City’s pretreatment program that regulates industrial discharges of pollutants into the City’s Publicly Owned Treatment Works.

Schimpf is scheduled to be sentenced on November 16, 2018.

The EPA’s criminal investigation into the company’s wastewater disposal practices followed a 2013 OSHA investigation into the lead exposure of workers at the USA Brass facility that resulted in OSHA citations for worker safety violations.  USA Brass has since closed the Bozeman business.

"The defendants jeopardized public health and safety by discharging lead-contaminated wastewater into public sewage systems, and lied to a local City official to obtain permission for the discharges,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Martinez of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Montana.  “This case sends a clear signal that EPA will hold accountable those who violate laws designed to protect our communities and the environment.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan R. Whittaker and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric E. Nelson.  It was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, Montana Office.

In March of 2014, the FBI conducted an investigation at USA Brass after more than 22 employees at the company tested positive for high levels of lead in October of 2013.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.