TACOMA, Wash. - Corey Campbell, the owner of the Classy Chassis Car Wash in Tacoma, says he has to deal with illegal dumping from time to time. But never had he seen a case like this.
"It was staggering when we found out," said Campbell.
Surveillance footage shows - on repeated occations - a man pulling up to the third bay in a red pickup carrying a blue 55-gallon barrel in the bed of his truck, starting the self-service car wash.
"He has a valve on it so he can release it and drain the whole thing, and I believe he has holes at the bottom of his truck so it all dumps out underneath," said Campbell.
All of that liquid, allegedly cooking oil and grease, runs into the drain, which is a criminal violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Surveillance cameras caught the suspect doing it dozens of times.
"It's frustrating. As a business we try to do things properly, we have oil water separators, things for customers that pay, and to have someone take advantage of that cost us money to clean the systems," said Cambell.
The truck's license plate eventually led investigators to a Mexican mobile restaurant, "La Sinaloense," a block away from the car wash.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says that man is 36-year-old Guadalupe Sanchez Roman, the boyfriend of the restaurant owner.
She told KING 5 Roman couldn't read the numerous posted signs against illegal dumping because he doesn't speak English. She also said the liquid was dish water, but Tacoma Public Works tested liquid in the catch basin and says it was cooking oil and grease.
"Grease today has a market value so why would you be putting it down the drain?" asked Campbell.
Restaurants often donate or sell their cooking oil to rendering companies who use it to make biodiesel.
Roman is expected to strike a plea deal with federal prosecutors on Wednesday. He has been in federal custody since his arrest in late August.