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March 3, 2009

CIVIL PENALTY IS IMPOSED AGAINST GALVESTON RESIDENT FOR VIOLATING CLEAN WATER ACT

(HOUSTON) – A Galveston area dentist has been ordered to pay $65,000 in civil penalties for violating the Clean Water Act, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. In an ordered filed on Friday, Feb. 27, 2009, U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller imposed a $65,000 civil penalty against Galveston resident Charles K. Scruggs following his actions resulting in .02 acres of unpermitted fill being placed in wetlands on his property on Galveston Island, in violation of the Clean Water Act. The ruling comes following a hearing held in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Feb. 18, 2009.

The violation occurred in January 2006, in wetlands adjacent to Offatts Bayou in Galveston on a site where Scruggs owns a residential structure. While having work performed on his property located on the 8000 block of Broadway by a contractor, .02 acres of wetlands were filled by mechanized land-clearing equipment pushing dirt into the wetlands. Fortunately, the violation did not harm or threaten human health or wildlife. The court found that Scruggs admitted telling his contractor he frankly did not care about the wetland designation…but the government did. 

In considering the amount of the civil penalty to be imposed upon Scruggs, the court noted that this violation of the Clean Water Act was not Scruggs’ first violation of environmental laws and regulations. In 2003, Scruggs entered into a voluntary settlement agreement covering previous violations of the Clean Water Act and the River and Harbors Act, which occurred on this same property and paid a $15,000 civil penalty. Additionally, the court found that the previously imposed civil penalty apparently failed to deter Scruggs from committing the 2006 violation nor did it cause Scruggs to vigilantly oversee activities of his contractor or ensure prompt remedy of the contractor’s mistake. 

Fill placed in wetlands can have an adverse impact to the aquatic habitat, the general aquatic ecosystem of the waters of the United States and the water quality functions of the wetlands. Before fill may be placed in wetlands or other waters of the United States, a permit must be evaluated and issued by the Department of the Army through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The discharge of dredged or fill material into a navigable water of the U.S., including adjacent wetlands, without the necessary permits or in violation of an approved permit, constitutes a violation of the Clean Water Act and is punishable civilly or criminally.

This case was litigated by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Alex Petty.

 

 

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