Fired for Doing Right, Contractor Says

ST. LOUIS (CN) – A plumbing company claims utility giants Ameren and Union Electric repeatedly violated state and federal laws on hazardous wastes and fired it for reporting the violations to high-ranking Ameren and Union Electric officials.

     Bishop & Associates, a plumbing contractor, and its owners Kara and Robert Bishop claim in City Court that the defendants terminated its 7-year contract with them on July 29, 2010 after Bishop made several complaints about the defendants activities.
     Bishop claims Ameren and Union Electric violated the Missouri Clean Water Law, the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Law, the plumbing codes of St. Louis County and City, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District rules and regulations, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations.
     “In the process of performing work for defendant companies, B&A frequently would find and report to defendant companies’ agents and employees, work that had been done improperly in the past, by other contractors or by unlicensed personnel of said defendants, and that resulted in or that B&A and Robert Bishop reasonably believed resulted in violations of environmental laws, local plumbing codes, and/or rules and regulations of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD),” the complaint states.
     “B&A reported to defendants violations or matters that B&A and Robert Bishop reasonably believed amounted to violations that included illegal discharges of oils from oil drums to soil, drainage ways, sewers and storm systems; broken and manipulated plumbing systems and more.”
     But rather than correct the violations, Bishop says, the complained that B&A was doing unnecessary and overly expensive work.
     “One of the jobs B&A performed for defendant companies in or about July 2009 was an emergency service request involving three stories of defendant companies’ headquarters building in St. Louis, Missouri,” the complaint states. “B&A discovered and reported to defendant [Richard] George that defendant companies’ mechanics had illegally installed a kitchen/break room that resulted in over $30,000 in damage to the plumbing system. … Defendant George was resistant to completing the corrections, and, to the best of plaintiffs’ knowledge, those items remain uncorrected today.”
     At another of the defendants’ facilities, B&A claims, contaminants are released into the soil, the sewer system and through the foundation walls of the defendants’ transformer repair shop, and the defendant stored, handled and disposed of hazardous waste in a way that endangered health and the environment.
     “Because of B&A’s reports regarding defendants’ illegal activities, or what B&A and Robert Bishop reasonably believed were illegal activities, defendants first reduced and then terminated B&A’s contract and entire business relationship with defendant companies,” the complaint states.
     The termination of the contract had severe consequences for B&A, which had devoted virtually all of its business to the defendants. The Bishops now face the possibility of losing B&A and their home.
     The Bishops seek damages for violation of public policy, and violation of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. They are represented by Kenneth Chackes with Chackes, Carlson & Halquist.
     Ameren, Union Electric dba Ameren Missouri, Ameren Services Company and three company officials are named as defendants.

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