BOZEMAN — Two Montana men who ran a now-defunct ammunition company have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges over the dumping of lead-contaminated wastewater into the Bozeman sewer system.
Zachary Daniel Flanagan, 26, former chief executive of USA Brass Company in Bozeman, pleaded guilty Aug. 2 to making false statements in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch. Flanagan admitted to deceiving sewer system operators in 2013 about the dangers posed by the contaminated water.
A second company official, 26-year-old Nolan Michael Schimpf, pleaded guilty Friday to negligent discharge of pollutants in violation of the Clean Water Act. Schimpf, the company's chief production officer, knew about the lead-contaminated wastewater dumping but did not stop it, prosecutors said.
The defendants are scheduled for separate sentencings in November before U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen. Prosecutors will recommend that each man receives five years of probation and a $50,000 fine under a plea deal.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigators began a probe of the company's waste disposal practices after a 2013 Department of Labor investigation into lead exposure of workers at the company.
USA Brass brought in "fired brass" from military bases, shooting ranges and recycling centers. The spent casings were sorted by individual caliber and cleaned, with the wastewater collected in 300-gallon containers.
The city's pretreatment coordinator granted USA Brass limited authorization to discharge 10 to 25 gallons of lead wastewater into the sewer daily, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
Prosecutors said some employees reported the company discharged up to 300 gallons per day. The company also didn't filter the water.
Flanagan and Schimpf were in charge of day-to-day operations of the company, which had about 20 employees.
In 2014, USA Brass was sued by eight employees who said they were intentionally exposed to hazardous levels of lead at the business. The lawsuit was dismissed in the spring of 2016 at the request of the company and plaintiffs.