Anthony Wiggins, 54, and Alex Wiggins, 51, were arraigned in federal court Thursday on three counts of depredation of government property and a conspiracy charge each.
Anthony Wiggins is the primary operator of A-1 Septic Service in Farmington, which services residential septic tanks.
In March, Anthony and Alex Wiggins allegedly dumped liquid waste pumped from local septic tanks onto land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, according to court documents.
The investigation began when a tipster called police and reported seeing black sludge on a road, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office and BLM partnered to investigate the case. Hidden cameras filmed the Wiggins brothers dumping raw sewage onto BLM land on March 6 and March 9, according to the news release.
“It is important that public lands, which are held in trust for the benefit of all citizens, are appropriately protected by our land management system agencies,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said in a prepared statement.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to say where the sewage was dumped. Courts documents state the sewage was found near a rural county road on BLM land.
Court documents state that more than 3,000 gallons of sewage were dumped on BLM land in March. The estimated cleanup cost is $28,500.
Anthony Wiggins could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
“We are not going to tolerate people dumping raw sewage in San Juan County,” Sheriff Ken Christesen said in a prepared statement.
Anthony and Alex Wiggins are each facing a possible prison sentence of up 10 years for each of the depredation charges and five years in prison for the conspiracy charge. Each of the felonies also carries a $250,000 fine.
San Juan County is no stranger to responding to environmental issues stemming from irresponsible citizens.
County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the county will take calls from residents about illegal dumping and raw-sewage issues that are brought on by faulty septic tanks.
There is a high number of septic tanks in San Juan County because the sewer systems have not historically extended into high-population, unincorporated areas like Kirtland, Flora Vista and the McGee Park area until recent years, Carpenter said. Even today, there are thousands of homes without access to sewer systems that must rely on septic systems.
The county has taken complaints about faulty septic tanks and informed the New Mexico Environment Department, which permits septic tanks, about the issues.
“There have been allegations that the environment department has investigated and they have levied fines,” Carpenter said. “But there has never been something to the egregiousness as a business knowingly dumping sewage. If this case is found out to be accurate, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ryan Boetel covers crime and San Juan County for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel.