90 days in Prison and $25,000 Fine for Illegal Dumping of Toxic Wastes

A truck driver is going to prison for illegally dumping toxic landfill waste in a soggy creek system that drains into one of central South Carolina's most well-known rivers, upstream from Congaree National Park.

Michael Greene, 45, received 90 days in prison, a $25,000 fine and one-year's probation after U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs questioned whether he understood the severity of dumping waste into a tributary of the Wateree River.

Childs issued the sentence Wednesday following pleas for mercy by Greene and his attorney. They said he didn't realize how bad the offense was and that the dumping had no major impact on the environment — a point disputed by prosecutors.

Greene, a former prison guard who quit to become a truck driver, pleaded guilty to the illicit dumping earlier this year. He was supposed to haul toxins from a Richland County landfill to an approved disposal site in Florence, but dumped the material at least five times in Leesburg Branch Creek, Greene admitted in court.

Since the waste was supposed to go to Florence, "wouldn't that have alerted you that this (creek) is not the place to dump anything?'' Childs asked before passing sentence. "It is more than just ignorance.''

Greene, dressed neatly in khakis and a white collared shirt, appeared angry and upset after the sentence. He declined comment.

Greene faced as many as three years in prison for backing up a 5,800-gallon tanker truck to Leesburg Branch in 2017 and discharging toxin-riddled water he was hauling from the Northeast landfill. Federal prosecutors sought a one-year prison sentence, but were pleased that Childs gave Greene some prison time.

Dumping toxic waste "was a little beyond throwing out some trash,'' Childs said.

Before Wednesday's hearing, Greene's friends filed statements urging the judge not to give him prison time, saying he was a good person who made a mistake. Those seeking mercy for Greene included an assistant school principal, an Internal Revenue Service agent and a woman who said she and Greene once worked together at the Lexington County Sheriff's Department.

Sentencing Greene to prison would put a hardship on his family, they said.

Chaddrick Myers, an assistant principal at Edward E. Taylor Elementary School, said Greene has donated University of South Carolina baseball tickets to students, mentored at-risk children and acted as a friend to school kids.

"I often tell him about the lack of male figures at my school, and he offers to come out to visit and speak with some of the students,'' Myers wrote in a letter to the court. "I truly believe in Michael and have no doubt about his ability to continue succeeding in the future.''

Kimerly Bodkin said Greene was the sole provider to her home, giving advice and counsel to her 17-year-old son. She called Greene "the only true father figure our son has had.''

"Despite Michael's poor choice, which jeopardizes his freedom, I do believe he could utilize his situation to be a vital lesson to himself and our son,'' Bodkin wrote. "This is a teachable life experience that my son will surely benefit'' from.

Greene has no criminal record, an assistant federal public defender said.

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