Steven Roger Augare Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula, on March 9, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, STEVEN ROGER AUGARE, a 51-year-old resident of Browning, pled guilty to false statements. Sentencing has been set for June 22, 2011. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris A. McLean, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
During the relevant time period, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued an Administrative Order and Boil Alert requiring the East Glacier Water and Sewer Department (EGWSD) to chlorinate and monitor the village of East Glacier's public water system-a surface drinking water system. A surface drinking water system is highly dependent on the use of chlorine to disinfect the water prior to it being distributed throughout the community. A surface drinking water system requires proper and adequate monitoring to safeguard the community from potentially dangerous bacteria in the water. The EPA has responsibility for enforcing regulations concerning such matters. As such, any statements made to MDEQ are within the jurisdiction of the United States EPA.
In 1993, AUGARE became employed by EGWSD as the primary water system operator. His duties included testing and monitoring and reporting the chlorine and turbidity levels in the public drinking water passing through EGWSD's public drinking water system. AUGARE made his reports of chlorine and turbidity levels to the MDEQ on a monthly report denoted the A.O. Compliance Report.
In spring 2002, the MDEQ responded to the EGWSD for an inspection as the public water supply had tested positive for fecal contamination. Records review by MDEQ inspectors revealed faulty record keeping by AUGARE. Over the next several years MDEQ periodically reviewed EGWSD records created and maintained by AUGARE and found serious deficiencies throughout the time period.
An investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID) was initiated in May 2007 at the request of the MDEQ. EPA-CID reviewed the A.O. Compliance forms #1 submitted by AUGARE for the period April, 2002 to July, 2006. The forms AUGARE submitted for January 2006 and February 2006 are typical of the monthly forms AUGARE submitted throughout the time period. AUGARE submitted two different compliance forms for January, 2006-one on February 2, 2006 and the other on March 24, 2006. The data AUGARE reported on these two forms is different for the same dates in January 2006. AUGARE also submitted the compliance form for February 2006 on March 24, 2006. On this form, AUGARE reported the same value, 1.3ppm residual chlorine, for every day in February 2006. An MDEQ Water Quality Specialist determined that the same value for residual chorine every day at every sampling station throughout the system is not chemically possible and, therefore, AUGARE's report contained false entries. On October 28, 2010, EPA-CID confronted AUGARE with these issues during an interview. AUGARE admitted that he falsified the report of turbidity and residual chlorine levels on the three A.O. Compliance form #1's described above.
Accurate information is essential for the government to assure compliance with our nation's environmental regulations," said Lori Hanson, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Montana. "Today's guilty plea demonstrates that the federal government will not tolerate actions that obstruct the oversight of public water systems by government officials, ensuring justice and the protection of public health for the Blackfeet Tribe and the people of northern Montana."
AUGARE faces possible penalties of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.