August 1, 2008
Former Director Admits Failing to Report Sewage Spill
By Sara Shepherd, The Kansas City Star, Mo.
Aug. 1--A spill that poured thousands of gallons of raw sewage into Lake of the Ozarks was not reported by the man in charge of doing so.
Richard L. Sturgeon, former public works director for the city of Lake Ozark, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to one count of failing to report the discharge of pollutants into a lake, U.S. attorney's office spokesman Don Ledford said in a press release.
As public works director, Sturgeon, 52, of Eldon, Mo., was responsible for overseeing Lake Ozark's wastewater treatment facility and reporting sewage overflows into the lake -- or bypass events -- at the facility's lift stations.
The city has a history of overflows and routinely has failed to notify the Missouri Department of Natural Resources when they occur, Ledford said.
In September, department staff saw a lift station experiencing a bypass that resulted in from 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of raw sewage being dumped into the lake, causing a "dark plume" of water, court documents allege.
The department notified Lake Ozark, and the city stopped the flow but conducted no cleanup and provided no written notification.
A water sample from the lake showed extremely elevated levels for ammonia nitrogen and fecal coliform bacteria, exceeding federal criteria.
"Lake of the Ozarks is one of the largest and most popular recreational lakes in the Midwest," U.S. Attorney John Wood said in a news release.
"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," he said.
Sturgeon's was the first criminal plea resulting from a tip submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency's "Report a Violation" Web site.
Sturgeon could face up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
To reach Sara Shepherd, call 816-234-4366 or send e-mail to [email protected]
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