No jail time for former wastewater chief

The Oswego City Wastewater Treatment Plant

SYRACUSE — Despite facing more than a year in jail on charges of negligently discharging raw sewage into Lake Ontario, the Oswego man who formerly managed the city’s wastewater treatment plant was sentenced this week to probation and a fine.

Gary Hallinan, 61, pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this year to violating the federal Clean Water Act on three dates between March 2015 and June 2015 during his tenure as Oswego Wastewater Treatment Plant superintendent.

According to prosecutors, Hallinan failed to take action when the wastewater plant’s centrifuge stopped working in December 2014. The centrifuge is an “essential piece of equipment to process wastewater and remove untreated or improperly treated sewage,” officials said, and “as a result of [Hallinan’s] negligence, the Oswego Wastewater Treatment Plant discharged wastewater containing solid sewage” into Lake Ontario.

The concentration of solid matter in the water discharged into Lake Ontario on June 23, 2015 was roughly 60 times higher than allowed by the plant’s permit, prosecutors said.

United States Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles sentenced Hallinan to 2 years probation, a $1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service. The most severe sentence that could have been imposed included up to one year in prison and a fine up to $100,000.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said Wednesday in response to the sentencing he did not believe Hallinan ever acted “maliciously” and agreed that the punishment fit the crime.

“The facilities were carelessly neglected for so long that (Hallinan) couldn’t operate the way he needed to because the plants were capable,” Barlow said, saying Hallinan was placed in a “unfortunate situation by former city leaders.”

“We’ve left this behind us and it is a truly different day for our facilities, staff and general operation,” Barlow added. “We still have a ways to go but the heaviest lifting is behind us.”

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