Virginia mayor accused of ordering employees to pump raw sewage into East River

News & Politics

A Virginia mayor has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly directing employees to pump raw sewage into a nearby river, violating the Clean Water Act.

James Spencer, an independent mayor in Glen Lyn, Virginia, allegedly broke federal law three times by ordering public servants to illegally discharge sewage.

Employees of the town of Glen Lyn were allegedly directed by Spencer to pump raw sewage, along with other pollutants, from a pump station behind the town’s post office into the East River, a 24-mile long tributary in southwest Virginia.

The East River leads into the New River, which flows through North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, stretching approximately 360 miles. The town even boasts about the New River on its official website.

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The illegal directions are alleged to have occurred on three separate occasions in consecutive years, beginning in summer 2019, before happening again in December 2020 and June 2021.

“The defendant abused his position of authority and violated the public’s trust by ordering public employees of Glen Lyn to illegally discharge raw sewage into the East River, a tributary of the New River,” acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Conrad said in a statement.

Spencer is accused by a Roanoke, Virginia jury of violating the Clean Water Act, a federal law which seeks to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological quality of the nation’s waterways, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

“The protection of our nation’s waters is critical to ensuring environmental justice for all the residents of the Western District of Virginia,” explained United States attorney Christopher Kavanaugh.

“When individuals – especially those in positions of authority –pollute our rivers and streams in violation of the law, our Office will hold them accountable,” Kavanaugh added.

Mayor Spencer has won his bid for office three times, running in 2015, 2016, and 2020. All three victories were unopposed, with as little as 17 total votes in 2015 and 35 in 2016 and 2020.

The town of Glen Lyn has an estimated population of just 97 as of 2019, a number that has been slowly shrinking over the course of a century.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Virginia State Police are working together to conduct the ongoing investigation into the matter.

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