doj.gif

NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


JULY 31, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


FORMER LAKE OZARK CITY OFFICIAL PLEADS GUILTY

TO FAILING TO REPORT SEWAGE DISCHARGE

INTO LAKE OF THE OZARKS


            JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former public works director for the city of Lake Ozark, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to failing to report the discharge of raw sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks.


            Richard L. Sturgeon, 52, of Eldon, Mo., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge William A. Knox this morning to an information that charges him with one count of failing to report the discharge of pollutants into a lake.


            “Lake of the Ozarks is one of the largest and most popular recreational lakes in the Midwest,” Wood said. “Under the Clean Water Act, we have a duty to prevent this natural resource from being polluted and to protect the health and safety of the public, including recreational users.”


            As the public works director, Sturgeon was responsible for overseeing the city’s waste water system and reporting sewage bypasses. Lake Ozark co-owns and operates the Lake of the Ozarks Regional Waste Water Treatment Facility with the City of Osage Beach, Mo.


            The city of Lake Ozark has a history of overflows or bypass events from the city’s lift stations into the Lake of the Ozarks. Citizen request forms maintained by the city document numerous incidents of lift station sewage bypasses that were never reported to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The city has routinely failed to notify DNR when the bypasses occurred, as its permit requires.


            On Sept. 11, 2007, DNR staff observed that a lift station was experiencing a bypass, resulting in a discharge of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of raw sewage into the lake. DNR staff noted that the sewage caused a dark plume in the water at the Lake of the Ozarks. DNR notified the city of the bypass, and the city responded and stopped the flow, but conducted no clean up and provided no written notification of the bypass.


            On Sept. 13, 2007, DNR staff visited the site, and no clean up had been started. DNR contacted Sturgeon and requested a clean up of the area. The bypass was never reported to DNR as required by the city’s permit. A sample analysis of water collected from the Lake of the Ozarks showed extremely elevated levels for ammonia nitrogen and fecal coliform exceeding the criteria for whole body contact recreation.


            Today’s criminal guilty plea is the first in the nation to result from a tip submitted by a concerned citizen to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Report an Environmental Violation” Web site, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/complaints/. Since January 2006, which is when the site was first launched, the public has submitted thousands of tips about potential environmental violations.


            “A concerned citizen brought this situation to our attention by submitting a tip through our Web site,” said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s enforcement and compliance assurance program. “This is a great example of how the public can help federal and state authorities fight environmental crime. We invite all citizens to help protect our nation’s environment by identifying and reporting environmental violations.”


            Under federal statutes, Sturgeon could be subject to a sentence of up to three years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Rauch. It was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.



****************

This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html