News and Press Releases

stover city official pleads guilty to charges related to violating safe drinking water act

August 13, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the public works superintendent in Stover, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges related to violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Richard R. Sparks, 54, of Stover, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to a charge contained in an April 15, 2010, federal indictment.

Sparks, the superintendent of the city’s public works department, pleaded guilty to making a false statement. Sparks admitted that he submitted a public water supply chain of custody record to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that contained a false sampling location.

Sparks bore primary responsibility for the collection and submission for analysis of water samples taken on behalf of the city. Federal law requires the city to submit monthly water samples to be analyzed for bacteriological contaminants such as fecal coliform, and to conduct lead and copper sampling once every three years.

On July 17, 2007, Sparks completed a lead and copper chain of custody record that listed samples purportedly collected from 10 locations in Stover, one of which was a residence at 301 W. 3rd Street. Sparks certified that each water sample was a “first draw,” and that “samples taken at single family residences were taken at kitchen or bathroom taps.” This certification by Sparks was false. At the time the record was completed by Sparks, the residence at 301 W. 3rd Street was vacant and there was no outside water supply.

Under federal statutes, Sparks is subject to a sentence of up to five 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. Attorneys Jane Pansing Brown, Daniel M. Nelson and Larry Miller. It was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency – Criminal Investigation Division and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Safe Drinking Water Act
The Safe Drinking Water Act is the primary federal statute addressing the quality of public drinking water provision. Congress enacted the SDWA in 1974 to address widespread water quality problems, directing the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce public health risks from drinking water contamination. The state of Missouri, via the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), has primary responsibility for enforcement and implementation of the SDWA in Missouri, and has jurisdiction over all public water supplies in the state. A public water system is required to collect tri-annual water samples to test for the presence of lead and copper.

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