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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


MATT J. WHITWORTH


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


AUGUST 25, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


FORMER LAKE OZARK CITY OFFICIAL SENTENCED

FOR FAILING TO REPORT SEWAGE DISCHARGE

INTO LAKE OF THE OZARKS


INVESTIGATION PROMPTED BY CITIZEN’S TIP

THROUGH EPA WEB SITE


            JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former public works director for the city of Lake Ozark, Mo., was sentenced in federal court today for failing to report the discharge of raw sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks.


            Richard L. Sturgeon, 54, of Eldon, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey this morning to three years of probation. The court also ordered Sturgeon to pay a $5,000 fine.


            On July 31, 2008, Sturgeon pleaded guilty to failing to report the discharge of pollutants into a lake.


            “The city of Lake Ozark repeatedly discharged raw sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks, one of the largest and most popular recreational lakes in the Midwest,” Whitworth said. “This criminal behavior threatened the health and safety of the public. Sturgeon not only knew that the city was polluting the Lake, but failed in his duty to report the discharges to the state.”


            “The city illegally discharged raw sewage into one of the Midwest’s most important natural resources,” said Mike Burnett, Special Agent-in-Charge of the EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Office in Kansas City, Kan. “The public sector and its officials have the same obligation to obey the law as does the private sector.”


            In a separate but related case, the city of Lake Ozark pleaded guilty on Aug. 25, 2008, to repeatedly discharging raw, untreated sewage from several sewage collection stations directly into the Lake of the Ozarks. The discharges were from sewage overflows resulting from faulty equipment. City officials knew that the stations needed fixing, but failed to make the repairs necessary to stop the overflow discharges from occurring. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the city will pay a fine of $50,000. The city also agreed to upgrade and maintain its wastewater treatment system and to report any and all bypasses from its treatment system and lift stations as required by the state.


            As the public works director, Sturgeon was responsible for overseeing the city’s waste water system and reporting sewage bypasses.


            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.


            This prosecution was the first resulting from a criminal investigation opened as a result of information received through EPA’s “Report an Environmental Violation” Web site, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/complaints/. Since January 2006, the general public can go directly to EPA’s Web site to alert authorities to potential civil or criminal violations. Since then, more than 2,000 tips have been referred by EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division to its field offices throughout the country. To date, 19 have been opened as criminal cases, with two cases resulting in prosecutions.


            This case was 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.


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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