Columbia Packing Co. and two of its executives have been handed 18 indictments in a case of water pollution and posisble evidence tampering. The company could face a fine of up to $1.5 million and the executives sent to prison if found guilty of the charges of dumping pigs' blood into the Trinity River, reports the Dallas Morning News.

A tipster using a remote-controlled plane took photos of a blood-stained creek bed, starting a local, state and federal investigation into the 80-year-old facility. Authorities raided the plant in January and said they discovered a hidden pipe used to bypass a sewer monitoring device. Columbia acknowledged that the plant had flushed blood and other waste into the creek but blamed it on bad plumbing.

A grand jury returned 18 indictments Wednesday against Columbia Packing Co. and two vice presidents. The Dallas County district attorney’s office released few details about the charges, but it said the yearlong investigation was carried out by Dallas County Health and Human Services, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The company faces six charges of releasing industrial waste into the creek — one for each of six incidents in the month before the January raid. Each charge carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

Columbia is also charged with two counts of tampering with evidence to impede wastewater tests, stemming from incidents in early 2010 and 2011. It is unclear whether those charges are related to the pipe that was discovered, but each carries a maximum fine of $20,000.

Joseph Ondrusek Jr., the president’s 39-year-old son, faces the same eight charges as the company, while his cousin Donny Ondrusek is charged in only the evidence-tampering incidents.

The men, both vice presidents, could face fines and at least two years in prison if convicted of evidence tampering. Ondrusek Jr.’s maximum sentences if convicted of all his charges add up to 50 years in prison.

An attorney for Columbia Packing and the Ondrusek family said that the company had not seem the indictment files against the company and the two family members.

Source: Dallas Morning News