RIVER ROUGE, Mich. – In some jobs you can miss a few days of work and it is no big deal. But the guy who has the job of making sure thousands of metro Detroiters are not exposed to hazardous materials didn't just miss a few days he missed hundreds of days.
It was mechanic Norman Raby's job to protect all of us from exposure to toxic and hazardous materials by testing for leaks, spills and dangerous emissions from the coke battery owned by DTE Energy on Zug Island located in the city of River Rouge.
The Chesterfield Township man rarely showed up for work but, he always collected a fat paycheck.
During one stretch Ruby worked only six days over several months.
Keith Corbett is a retired federal prosecutor who says the plant makes coke batteries and the process creates highly toxic and hazardous waste.
If the waste seeps out into the water or leaks on to the land or emits into the air it can be deadly, according to Corbett.
It was Raby's job to test and make sure no toxics were escaping.
"What we know is what was supposed to be done. What was supposed to be monitored was not and we can only hope that no unacceptable admissions and no one was exposed to some sort of toxic waste so they can suffer harm in the future," said Corbett.
According to federal records obtained by the defenders, this went on for 5 years Raby paid to be on site five days a week for testing instead he falsified records, doctored documents and faked test results to make it look like he was working, but in reality he wasn't anywhere near the plant.
"The fact is he did something he knew was wrong and avoided working at a job he didn't like and he didn't care what happened to other people," said Corbett.
There's not too much around the Zug Island neighborhoods these days, according to Hubbie Saitel.
"It's been depleting from year to year. I believe we've been forgotten," said Saitel.
Meantime, people still live in homes nearby, animals run in the yards, and residents ride their bikes. Even more dangerous, if leaks were occurring and toxic waste was rolling into the river.
"He's got be in a position to notify the energy company," said Corbett.
But nobody was on site to notify DTE, which ultimately is in charge of the plant
In legal filings Raby's attorney says the power company should have known what was going on and should have been supervising Raby closer to step in sooner.
In a statement DTE Energy said Raby was an employee of an environmental consulting firm and not an employee of DTE.
DTE wrote, "The falsification of emissions and water sampling reports by an employee of a consulting firm was discovered by EES Coke personnel. That finding was promptly reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE). There is no evidence to suggest that actual emissions or water sampling results were out of compliance during that period. We will continue to cooperate fully with both agencies on this matter."
Raby, who admitted what he did, was fired.
He blames depression and alcohol problems for his chronic absenteeism and is hoping the judge will sentence him to probation.
Prosecutors say he put lives at risk and needs to do time.
Sentencing is Nov. 13th