Pa. firm charged in drilling waste disposal case

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A north-central Pennsylvania waste cleanup firm and its owner improperly disposed of toxic natural gas drilling waste, the state attorney general's office said in charges filed Friday.

Minuteman Environmental Services and Brian Bolus, who owns the Milton-based company, were charged in Union County with unlawful conduct, while Bolus was also facing conspiracy charges, prosecutors said.

Bolus, 43, did not immediately respond to a telephone message left with a Minuteman receptionist Friday.

Witnesses told a grand jury that between 2010 and 2013, employees washed out trucks or equipment containing drilling wastewater, mud or cuttings onto the ground at company properties in Harrisburg and Milton. Prosecutors say it they have evidence it drained into a small waterway by the Harrisburg property. They also say drilling waste was stored in leaking containers on company properties.

State environmental regulators said they had not issued permits for the activity.

"Brian Bolus and Minuteman blatantly exploited hard-working employees, dozens of businesses and the environment," Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in a statement.

A 48-page grand jury presentment also recommended other charges against Bolus, two related firms and his mother, father, brother, sister and father's fiancee stemming from other alleged conspiracies that do not involve environmental crimes.

In one alleged conspiracy, prosecutors accused Bolus and Minuteman of overbilling clients, including many of the major natural gas exploration companies that have flocked to Pennsylvania in the last five years to explore the Marcellus Shale, the nation's largest-known natural gas formation. The alleged overbilling reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, in a separate alleged conspiracy, Bolus family members were essentially ghost employees at firms owned by Brian Bolus or his father, allowing them to submit a half-million dollars in fraudulent health insurance claims and drive up insurance premiums for company employees, prosecutors said.

All told, three companies owned by Brian Bolus and three companies owned by his father were charged, prosecutors said.

The investigation became public in May 2013, when the FBI and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection searched Minuteman's office in Milton.

Gov. Tom Corbett visited Minuteman in 2012 as part of an effort to drum up support for his state budget proposal, calling the company "an American success story." The Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce named Minuteman its business of the year in 2012.

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