A local distillery and its owner have been indicted by a Shenandoah County grand jury on 115 counts of charges relating to dumping over 40,000 gallons of industrial waste into a stream.
Filibuster Distillery LLC, located at 80 Maurertown Mill Road, Maurertown, was charged with 47 counts of discharging industrial waste without a permit into a state water, one count of discharging industrial waste into a publicly owned waste treatment works, and one count of altering state water without a permit and making it detrimental to public health.
Siddharth Dilawri, operator and head of the distillery, has been charged with 54 counts of discharging industrial waste without a permit into a state water, two counts of discharging industrial waste into a publicly owned waste treatment works, and one count of altering state water without a permit and making it detrimental to public health.
Filibuster Barrels LLC, aka Dilawri Barrels, faces nine counts of discharging industrial waste without a permit into a state water.
The charges come after a two-year investigation by the Shenandoah County fire marshal and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, according to a news release from the office of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
Shenandoah County Fire Marshal David Ferguson said the investigation began on Dec. 6, 2018, after he received complaints from neighbors of the distillery of an odor from and discoloration in a nearby creek. Ferguson said he followed the sludge he found in the stream leading to two pipes coming out of the distillery.
One of the pipes was releasing a silage byproduct that is made during the distillery process, which is not allowed at all, Ferguson said. That byproduct is removed by various other means. The other pipe, he said, was discharging cooling water, which contains metals. Ferguson said Dilawri was discharging the cooling water without a permit.
Dilawri had stopped releasing the byproduct on Dec. 6, 2018, and obtained a permit for the discharges from the other pipe, Ferguson said. But Dilawri was not meeting parameters set forth by the Department of Quality when discharging the cooling water.
Communication was given to Dilawri to stop the illegal discharging and work with him, but he never came into compliance, which led to the charges he received Wednesday, Ferguson said. Virginia State Water Control Law makes each day of a discharge a separate offense, according to a warrant obtained by The Northern Virginia Daily.
“We work several environmental crimes,” Ferguson said. “We have never worked one to this scale where it impacted a stream to this magnitude or community members.”
The impacted waterway includes a stormwater inlet near the facility that connected with Maurentown Run, Jordan Run, Toms Brook and eventually the North Fork Shenandoah River, which ultimately connects to the Chesapeake Bay, Ferguson said. Organisms living in these waterways will be impacted, but Ferguson referred any further detail about those impacts to DEQ.
Brandon Kiracofe, of the DEQ, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Dilawri had initially said the illegal discharging was an accident, according to Ferguson, but then later came forward to officials saying the person previously collecting this byproduct had stopped doing so and he knew what he was doing by discharging the byproduct as so. Ferguson referred the question of if more charges could be coming against Dilawri to the Attorney General’s Office, which did not immediately return a request for comment.
"All businesses, no matter what size they are, must adhere to state and federal environmental protections, and when they don't, they will be held accountable," states Herring in the news release. "Not only did this distillery allegedly dump tens of thousands of gallons of industrial waste into a stream, Dilawri also allegedly lied about it to investigators, and that will not be tolerated in Virginia.
“I want to thank our partners at DEQ and the Shenandoah County Fire Marshal for their help and coordination on this case. I hope these charges will send a message to other businesses that Virginia takes protecting our environment very seriously," Herring states.
In the news release, DEQ Director David Paylor said "DEQ unequivocally values Virginia's waterways and works with vigor to protect them every day.
"Today, DEQ took necessary steps to carry out our mission to protect and improve the environment for the health, well-being and quality of life of all Virginians. With cooperation and support from the Office of the Attorney General, DEQ will continue to hold violators accountable."
An attempt to reach Dilawri was unsuccessful.