RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – Two Rankin County men appeared in federal court on Thursday. They face felony charges of illegally discharging industrial waste into the Jackson Sewer System.

Prosecutors said Thomas W. Douglas, 61, and John S. Welch, Sr., 64, were also charged with conspiracy and making false statements. The nine-count federal indictment was unsealed on September 2, 2022.

Douglas and Welch have been accused of carrying out a scheme whereby industrial waste from their company, Gulf Coast Commodities, discharged illegally into the Jackson Sewer System.

The case is set for trial on November 7, 2022, in U.S. District Court in Jackson. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on Count 1 of the indictment, three years in prison on each of Counts 2-6 of the indictment, and five years in prison on each of Counts 7-8 as to Douglas and Count 9 as to Welch.

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the case. 

Gold Coast Commodities released the following statement after the indictment was unsealed.

Gold Coast takes protecting the environment and surrounding communities very seriously. The charges against Tom Douglas and John Welch arise from a civil dispute with the City of Brandon that was settled and the conduct of a former vendor who has already pled guilty to charges concerning waste handling and disposal.

Since the DOJ informed us of their investigation, we have cooperated fully with the investigators and have taken numerous measures to prevent the recurrence of this sort of conduct by vendors we hire.

Tom Douglas has always strived for the best for his community, his company, his employees, and his family. Those who know Tom Douglas and John Welch, know that the full-scale fight they will mount to defend their reputation, their integrity, and their ethics will be intensive and thorough in pursuit of uncovering the truth.

Gold Coast Commodities