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2005 Drinking Water and Wastewater Legal Issues

 

December, 2005

Southeastern Louisiana Water and Sewage Co., Inc. receives record $2.1 million fine for felony violations of federal Clean Water Act

It was the largest felony fine ever levied against an environmental corporation in Louisiana. The Mandeville  firm pleaded guilty to charges of improperly operating its plants and dumping 46 times the legal limit of waste into local waterways. SELA, one of St. Tammany's major sewage operators, violated several caveats of the federal Clean Air Water Act at many of its 30 St. Tammany Parish plants during an 11-year period, said Jan Maselli Mann, first assistant United States attorney from New Orleans. SELA, was charged with operating its facilities without a permit, failing to report violations and in some cases, falsifying reports, investigators said. SELA CEO Jared Rieke said the company would have reported any violations had it known about them, and since the investigation ended in 2002, SELA has plugged all its problems, spending $12 million to correct it's violations. News Banner_ 12/26/05

Northern Ohio Rural Water former general manager faces 19 charges

In an 11-page indictment, a Huron County grand jury charged Anthony Quebodeaux, 57, with offenses that included bribery, money laundering and theft in office. Quebodeaux pleaded innocent to the 19 counts and remains jailed in Huron County on a $200,000 cash bond. Northern Ohio Rural Water supplies water to sections of Erie, Huron, Lorain and Sandusky counties. Central Ohio Newspaper Network_ 12/13/05

Suit accuses firm, owner of a water-scare scam

By falsely convincing homeowners the water supply was contaminated, an Aurora company fraudulently sold thousands of dollars in unnecessary water filtering systems to the Latino consumers they targeted, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Illinois attorney general's office Tuesday. Pacific Aqua Pure and owner Walter Mottillo are named in the suit in response to 12 complaints received from Kane County residents, including Latino families in Elgin and Aurora. Salespeople with the company posed as official inspectors, told families their water contained lead and then sold pitches for water filtration systems that cost almost $5,000, the suit alleges. Phone numbers for Pacific Aqua Pure were disconnected, and Mottillo did not return a call for comment.  Chicago Tribune_12/8/05

Washington State Attorney General backs ranchers on water use for livestock

The Washington state Department of Ecology may not limit the amount of water that ranchers draw daily for their livestock, according to an opinion by the state attorney general's office. Stock water has been a nearly perennial issue in the Legislature between environmentalists who want limits and ranchers and dairies who do not. "The greatest benefit of the opinion may be that those producers can take it to their bank for financing purposes. It should remove the question of water availability," said state Rep. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake. She sought the opinion after constituents complained of being rejected for loans because of Ecology Department-imposed limits. "This is a victory, not only for dairy and livestock owners, but for those who want to keep state agency rule-making in check," said state Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, who also asked for the opinion. "It's the job of the Legislature to set policy, not state agencies."  Seattle Post Intelligencer_11/30/05

Group alleges 'stealth' water policy in process
A taxpayers group filed suit against the city of San Diego yesterday, claiming that city staffers are secretly promoting a controversial plan that would convert wastewater into drinking water.  The city shelved a similar idea six years ago, after much public outcry. Mark Mazzarella, a lawyer for the Association of Concerned Taxpayers, accused the city of running a "stealth program" to move the concept forward again despite potential health and cost concerns. The city said the claims don't have merit.  SignOnSanDiego.com_11/23/05

Wyoming man not guilty of assault in irrigation water dispute

A jury has found James D. Flowers not guilty of aggravated assault in a October 2004 incident in which he was accused of striking Steve Krenning with a shovel during a dispute over water usage. At the time of the incident, Flowers was a manager for the Heart Mountain irrigation district and Krenning was an irrigator whose water usage Flowers had been monitoring. Flowers admitted during the trial that he hit Krenning with a shovel but asserted that he acted in self-defense after Krenning approached him in a manner he said was aggressive and threatening. Billings Gazette_ 11/20/05

Florida Rivers Coalition plans legal action over poor quality of St. Lucie River water

Chairman Leon Abood said the coalition of 40 environmental, business and recreational organizations voted to work with Earthjustice attorneys to sue the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers for discharging billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee into local waterways. The announcement came days after city councils in Sanibel and Bonita Springs on the Gulf Coast also announced plans to investigate legal action to combat the ecological destruction caused by the discharges. Sun-Sentinel_ 11/19/05

New Hampshire Supreme Court says Nashua can proceed with utility takeover
New Hampshire's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the city of Nashua can proceed with its attempt to take over a water utility under New Hampshire's eminent domain law.  The city has been trying to acquire Nashua-based Pennichuck Water Works for several years. The court ruled 4-0 in favor of the city.  Pennichuck rejected Nashua's offer of $121 million in December 2003. It sued the city in 2004 to try to block the acquisition and appealed to the high court after losing the case in Hillsborough County Superior Court. Company attorney Thomas Donovan argued in September that the law allows cities to have a "free test drive" at seizing a public utility with no financial downside if the municipality decides not to acquire the company in the future. But David Connell, attorney for the city, said New Hampshire law grants cities unique powers to acquire a public utility if it is in the public interest. Boston.com_11/16/05

Utah water company allowed to sue Summit County in multimillion-dollar antitrust action

The Utah Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for the private Summit Water Distribution Co. to sue Summit County. In its unanimous ruling, the high court said Summit County and its water company, Mountain Regional Water Special Services District, are not immune from antitrust lawsuits."It's a landmark decision," said Salt Lake City-based attorney Robert S. Campbell, who represents the private water company. In 2000, the Summit County Commission sought to unite the dozen or more small, independent water companies in western Summit County. The move came after several of them had failed, leaving their customers without water. Summit Water, the largest of those private companies, however, had plenty of water resources, was profitable and in no danger of going under. In September 2001, Summit Water officials filed suit in Park City's 3rd District Court alleging that the Summit County Commission, through Mountain Regional, was attempting to monopolize water in the Snyderville Basin. Salt Lake Tribune_ 11/5/05

October, 2005

Fraud probe at UK's Severn Trent Water
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was contacted by water watchdog Ofwat which has been holding its own investigation into the company after allegations from an employee. The allegations concern fears the water company provided unreliable information, particularly accounting inaccuracies, to Ofwat. A spokesman for Severn Trent said the company would co-operate fully with the fraud office. An Ofwat spokesman said: "The SFO has concluded the matter is sufficiently serious to warrant a separate investigation by them." BBC News_ 10/31/05

Kentucky Supreme Court stands by ruling on Kentucky American Water vote

The Kentucky Supreme Court refused today to overturn its earlier decision banning a Lexington vote next month on condemning the water company. The court's decision not to reconsider was along the same 4-2 split as its Oct. 13 ruling that a vote this year would violate a state law that says no elections are scheduled. The court had overturned an August decision by Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark, who said the election could go forward. Lexington Herald Leader_ 10/26/05

Justices to measure Clean Water Act's reach: The high court will hear cases that could limit the power of the U.S. to protect wetlands.

The Supreme Court, in a potentially far-reaching clash between the environment and the rights of property owners, agreed Tuesday to consider limiting the federal government's power to protect hundreds of millions of acres of wetlands.  After its first private conference led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court said it would hear three cases that asked the justices to cut back on the reach of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the antipollution measure that led to the cleanup of streams, rivers and bays around the nation. A defeat for the federal government could signal the beginning of a retreat from broad federal protection for the environment. Some conservatives and property-rights activists have urged the high court to be more aggressive in protecting landowners from environmental regulators. The Los Angeles Times_10/12/05

Kentucky high court to rule on Kentucky American Water vote

Lexington voters should know by Friday whether they will go to the polls next month to decide whether the city should acquire Kentucky American Water. The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue for 45 minutes today. Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said the court hoped to have a ruling by the end of the week. The issue is on the ballot because more than 23,000 people signed a petition after the Urban County Council ended an attempt to condemn the water company. The water company's attempt to block the vote failed in Fayette Circuit Court in late August, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals declined last month to issue an injunction to stop the election. Lexington Herald-Leader_ 10/10/05

Chicago Water Department quizzed on bribery

About a dozen employees of Chicago's scandal-ridden Department of Water Management were questioned by the inspector general Friday about a co-worker's allegations that cash bribes were exchanged for overtime and that a clout-heavy foreman ran gambling on city time. The employes who were questioned reportedly included foreman of water pipe construction Tom Briatta, a distant relative by marriage of the mayor's brother, County Commissioner John Daley. Chicago Sun-Times_ 10/8/05

Indianapolis, Indiana drinking water found to be safe
No drinking-water violations were found in tests undertaken in response to a complaint about Indianapolis' water system, Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials said Thursday. Levels of disinfectant byproducts, however, were elevated at 11 of 19 locations at which the agency tested the water, and the city will be asked to keep those levels consistently lower, agency spokesman Barry Sneed said. Crews drew water samples Sept. 30 after the agency received a complaint about Veolia Water Indianapolis, the private company contracted to run the city's system. The tests coincided with the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Indiana's move to subpoena four Veolia employees to testify before a grand jury. Veolia said investigators are looking into allegations its employees may have falsified records.
Indianapolis Star_ 10/7/05

Indianapolis orders new tests of drinking water's quality
The city's Department of Waterworks ordered its own independent tests of water quality Tuesday in the wake of a federal investigation into Veolia Water Indianapolis. Carlton Curry, who heads the department, said he expects the results of chemical tests as early as Friday and bacterial tests after the weekend. He declined to give the name of the lab conducting the tests. U.S. Attorney Susan W. Brooks confirmed this week that Veolia is under investigation by the state's environmental crimes task force. The company said four employees have been subpoenaed to talk about water quality records submitted by the company. The state Department of Environmental Management last week conducted its own testing at 19 locations after it received a tip. Those samples have been sent to a Northern Indiana lab, and results are expected soon. City officials and the water company have said they do not believe there is any reason for public concern about the water supply. Indianapolis Star_ 10/5/05

Indianapolis, Indiana water system under scrutiny by both state and federal officials
The U.S. Attorney confirmed Monday her office is investigating the Indianapolis Water Co., apparently regarding the possible falsification of water quality records. Patrick Carroll, chief of the state agency's drinking-water branch, said samples taken from pipes that carry treated water are being tested for about 90 contaminants. Results are expected this week. It was not clear whether there was a link between the federal and state actions. Carroll said he was unaware of the federal probe when the testing was done. U.S. Attorney Susan W. Brooks confirmed the Indiana Interagency Environmental Crimes Task Force is conducting an investigation connected to the Indianapolis water system, said the U.S. Attorney's spokeswoman, Mary Bippus. Veolia Water Indianapolis officials, who run the system under a contract with the city, said city water is safe for the more than 1 million people who use it. Indianapolis Star_ 10/4/05

4 Veolia workers subpoened in probe of possible test results fabrication in Indianapolis, Indiana
Water company officials would provide no details Sunday about the federal investigation or what positions the four employees hold in the company. The employees received the court order Friday from the U.S. Attorney's Office. In a statement issued Sunday night, Carolyn Mosby-Williams, Veolia vice president of communications and community affairs, said the company was "fully cooperating and providing requested information." She said Indianapolis residents should trust that their drinking water is clean. Veolia has about 290,000 customers in Indianapolis and surrounding areas, including Zionsville, Greenwood and Carmel. Indianapolis Star_ 10/3/05

September, 2005

California Water puts CFO on leave after SEC suit
California Water Service Group (CWT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said it named John Tootle as acting vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer and placed Richard Nye, who held the same posts, on administrative leave following a civil suit filed against him by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  California Water, which owns water service companies in four states, said the SEC allegations against Nye and other executives relate to his prior posts at another company and do not involve California Water.  Reuters_9/28/05

Oregon's top court sends back Tenmile water suit

Long term suit still not resolved
The Oregon State Supreme Court has handed Coos Bay-North Bend Water Board a small victory in its battle for Tenmile Creek water, sending a Court of Appeals decision back for review. The court stopped short of overturning the Court of Appeal's April 2004 decision, instead ordering it to reconsider the matter in light of House Bill 3038, a state water rights law passed in June.  In March 1990, the Water Board applied for a permit to take water from Tenmile Creek. The permit was granted by the Oregon Water Resources Department in December 1993. The city of Lakeside and the environmental group WaterWatch challenged the permit, sparking what would turn into a lengthy court battle.  Theworldlink.com_9/21/05

Colorado rancher sentenced to federal prison for violating clean water law

A 69-year-old Weld County rancher and rodeo producer was sent to federal prison Friday for tampering with monitoring equipment to hide leaks in the underground storage of chemical-laced wastewater left over from oil well drilling. Michael Eugene Cervi, 69, of Roggen, will spend five months in federal prison, followed by five months of home detention. He also must pay a $30,000 fine and provide 50 hours of community service by speaking to ranching and rodeo groups about his crime and time in prison. Cervi, who pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, owned a business called Envirocycle, according to court documents, which had a state permit to inject wastewater from oil drilling into a deep underground aquifer through a commercial injection well.Cervi's plea agreement said he had his employees hide a leak from the well by sealing off the leaky well from the monitoring system, creating a new fake sampling point, periodically pouring clean water in the sampling tube, submitting the clean samples to the Weld County Health Department, and making false log entries about the amount of fluid in the well. By doing so, the well continued leaking contaminants into the soil. Rocky Mountain News_ 9/10/05

August, 2005

Idaho surface water users sue state water resources director

A coalition of reservoir and irrigation districts is suing the director of the state Department of Water Resources, challenging the rules used to manage both surface and ground water. A Water Resources spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, which stems from a dispute between water users in drought-parched southern Idaho. In January, seven irrigation districts and canal companies in the Twin Falls region asked the water resources department to grant them their full surface water rights. Because Idaho's water law gives those with the oldest water rights priority over younger water rights holders, the request had the potential of shutting down groundwater pumpers in the region. In the most extreme case, Idaho Groundwater Appropriators Executive Director Lynn Tominaga said, junior water rights holders could be shut down until enough water returns to fill all senior water rights. AP/Casper Star Tribune_ 8/31/05

Feds grill Chicago Mayor Richard Daley

Daley revealed the interview at the news conference. He said federal agents questioned him for two hours, asking about "a number of subject matters." Daley said he "answered their questions fully and openly." So far, 32 people have been charged in the Hired Truck scandal, 23 pleaded guilty and one died after he was charged. The Sun-Times exposed widespread corruption in the Hired Truck program last year and Daley later scrapped it. That investigation has broadened as politically connected defendants in the probe, including former first deputy water commissioner Donald Tomczak, continue to flip and spill to the feds. In July, the feds landed at the mayor's doorstep, saying clout was traded for City Hall jobs. They lodged fraud charges against longtime Daley loyalist Robert Sorich, who ran the IGA office. The office oversees political hiring and activity. The charges revealed 30 people were cooperating with the feds. Sorich also has close ties to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, the mayor's brother. Chicago Sun-Times_ 8/27/05

New Jersey clean water consultant also works for pollutors
A water quality consultant to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on river cleanup plans also works for sewage treatment plants discharging pollutants into those same rivers, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Not only does the consulting firm wear two conflicting hats at the same time on the same river, this consultant hired a former DEP scientist who helped develop the DEP river cleanup plan program. TRC Omni Corporation acts as a paid consultant to DEP on the Clean Water Act’s “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) program. In that role, Omni scientists collect water quality data, design water quality models, and establish specific enforceable pollutant reduction permit requirements for individual facilities discharging pollutants into the Raritan, Millstone and other rivers. Meanwhile, Omni does virtually identical work as a permit consultant to sewage treatment plants discharging pollutants into these very rivers.  EMS _8/23/05

Wal-Mart to pay $1.15 mln in Conn. settlement
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said on Monday it would pay $1.15 million to settle charges involving storm water issues with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.  The company said in a statement it would pay $600,000 in civil penalties for alleged violations at 20 Wal-Mart stores and two Sam's Club locations. It would also pay $550,000 to projects to help Connecticut municipalities address storm water issues and for environmental projects in the Connecticut River's watershed.  Reuters_8/15/05

Northeast states sue EPA over water use rules for power plants

Six Northeast states have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming its rules governing power plants' use of water will cause continued fish kills and other environmental harm. The EPA published regulations in July 2004 outlining how power plants nationwide can use water from bays, rivers, lakes, oceans and other waterways for cooling.   The issue has been contentious in states where older, mostly fossil-fuel plants draw in large amounts of water for cooling, a process scientists and others say kills fish, larvae and eggs either while the water is being sucked in or when it has been heated.  Newsday_8/5/05

Nevada water agency backs plan to line All-America Canal

Nevada's largest water agency plans to weigh in on a water-rights dispute along the California-Mexico border, saying its outcome could directly affect users in the Las Vegas region.  The Southern Nevada Water Authority this week announced it will take legal action in favor of a plan to line the All-American Canal, which carries Colorado River water to California's Imperial Valley.  San Diego Union Tribune_8/5/05

Worker Admits He Falsified City's Water-Purity Records
A former city worker responsible for sampling the quality of New York City's extensive water-supply system admitted in federal court yesterday that he had falsified records that federal officials used to determine if the city's drinking water was safe and clean.  Mr. Greenfeld also admitted before Magistrate Judge Mark D. Fox in White Plains that he had entered false readings in the logbook on several other occasions, although he had denied doing so when first questioned by federal agents.   New York Times_8/5/05 (warning, popup ads)

US broke law on water deals, judge rules

In the latest ruling in a long-running court case, a U.S. judge has found that the federal government violated environmental laws when it renewed long-term contracts for a group of irrigation districts that get water from the San Joaquin River.  The 78-page opinion, issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento, found that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's 2001 contract renewal was "arbitrary and capricious" and that two federal wildlife agencies had failed to fully analyze the environmental effects of the water deliveries.  The conservation groups that filed the suit say the irrigation diversions have not only destroyed salmon runs on the San Joaquin, one of the state's largest rivers, but are also harming downstream fisheries in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Los Angeles Times_7/30/05 log on requied

Chicago's ex-water deparment boss pleads guilty

A former city water official pleaded guilty July 29 to racketeering and tax fraud, becoming the highest-ranking city official brought down by the government's investigation of bribery and patronage hiring abuses in Mayor Richard M. Daley's political empire.  Donald Tomczak, former first deputy water commissioner, admitted he steered patronage jobs to applicants with political clout and received payoffs from trucking companies that did business with the city. He also agreed to help prosecutors in their 18-month investigation.  Chicago Sun Times_7/29/05

Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power told to restore part of Owens River
A frustrated judge ordered Los Angeles water officials to restore portions of a once vibrant Inyo County river, or be barred from using an aqueduct that transports millions of gallons of water to Southern California each day.  To compel the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to act, Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee E. Cooper imposed fines and limited the amount of water the agency can pump in the Owens Valley.   Los Angeles Times _ 7/26/05

 

U.S., Mexican groups sue Dept. of Interior over water

Lining the All-American Canal prompts legal action

A lingering dispute over water rights along the California-Mexico border took an unprecedented legal turn this week as a coalition of U.S. and Mexican groups sued the U.S. Department of Interior.  The lawsuit, filed in U.S. federal court in Las Vegas, seeks to halt a multimillion-dollar U.S. plan to line 23 miles of the All-American Canal and send the water that is saved to San Diego County.  The water saved through the lining project could supply 134,000 households in San Diego County, according to the San Diego County Water Authority. But farmers in the Mexicali Valley who have relied on seepage from the All-American Canal to irrigate their crops for five decades say the project would hurt them badly.  SignOnSanDiego.com_7/20/05

 

Screening to determine whether drinking water was contaminated by Teflon chemical

Tens of thousands of Ohio and West Virginia residents could be tested over the next year to determine if their health has been affected by drinking water containing a chemical used to make the nonstick substance Teflon. DuPont Co. agreed in February to pay for the screenings to settle a class-action lawsuit. Teflon is one of the company’s most popular products; the substance can be found in everything from cookware and clothing to car parts and flooring. AP/MSNBC_ 7/8/05

California's East Bay Municipal Utility District must repay the University of California $741,000 for overcharging

A state appeals court ruled the utility district overcharged the university for water in 2002 and must repay the money with interest. The university, which paid the Oakland agency $3 million for water service and wastewater treatment for its East Bay facilities in 2002, challenged a $1 million portion of the bill that helped pay for improvements in the utility district's water system. California utility districts can charge government agencies for system improvements, but the fees may not rise faster than the inflation rate. San Francisco Chronicle_ 7/7/05

June, 2005

Legal issues snarl Montana state-tribe water pact

Five years not long enough to reach agreement

The state and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes said they have suspended efforts to reach in interim water use agreement on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  In a joint statement, the tribe and the state Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission said legal issues concerning the draft agreement reached in 2004 led to the decision to suspend it. Instead, those involved will "revitalize their efforts" at reaching a permanent agreement, the two governments said in the statement.  Chris Tweeten, chairman of the state Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, noted the commission is set to sunset in July 2009, which he said likely wouldn't be enough time to work out the legal issues that were raised.

Billings Gazette _ 6/21/05

Feds: Chicago water workers ran heroin ring

A Chicago Water Management Department employee was the leader of a heroin distribution cell supplied by Colombian traffickers, according to federal charges. George A. Prado, two other city employees and six others were arrested on charges of conspiring to distribute large quantities of heroin. The FBI launched the investigation in February. Prado is a hoisting engineer for the Water Management Department. Also charged were his brother-in-law, Anthony C. Ritacco, who works for the Chicago Department of Transportation, and Michael D. Hart, a low-level Water Management employee. Last week, Mayor Daley fired Water Management Commissioner Richard Rice and nine underlings, including the brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner John Daley, after the discovery of a scam in which someone would punch the employees into a time card reader even though they were not on duty at the city’s Jardine Filtration Plant. The Water Department has been the focus of a scandal involving the $38 million Hired Truck Program, under which the city outsources hauling jobs to private trucking companies. Chicago Sun-Times_ 6/8/05

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley sacks water commissioner; nine workers accused of ghost payrolling

Among the workers are political foot soldiers for the mayor and the brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner John Daley, the mayor's brother. The nine employees represented half of the work force at the 18-person "leak desk," a 24-hour call center that dispatches crews and fields calls about any emergencies in the city's water mains. The employees arranged for someone to swipe them in and out of work, said Daley's chief of staff, Ron Huberman. Daily Southtown_ 6/4/05

North Dakota's Supreme Court refuses to block Devils Lake project

The Canadian province of Manitoba and two local opposition groups had sued to block the project, saying diverted water from Devils Lake could introduce new types of pollution into Canadian waters. In a ruling made public Thursday, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the lawsuit, finding that the state Health Department followed North Dakota law and did not act unreasonably in issuing a permit for the project. The ruling clears the way for the project to begin operating next month. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/2/05

May, 2005

California developer, water board hold talks on massive fine

A developer fined nearly $1.5 million for sediment runoff at a construction site has begun negotiating the amount with the regional water board.  The penalty includes about $205,000 in additional fines since the original March 10 complaint because JRMC Real Estate, the developer, failed to install adequate erosion controls by the end of the rainy season, water board officials said.   San Diego Union_5/25/05

'Dirty' New York water tester indicted

The feds indicted a city DEP worker for allegedly filing bogus test reports on the city's drinking water, authorities said.  Dieter Greenfeld, 53, was a Department of Environmental Protection "watershed maintainer" responsible for monitoring drinking water for "turbidity" — or cloudiness — at a Catskill water treatment plant.  The indictment alleges Greenfeld falsified entries by reporting test results he had never conducted and just made them up, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney David Kelley.  Cooking the books and flouting federal rules also could be costly for the city.  Without credible testing, the feds could force the city to spend billions of additional dollars to build a new plant to filter all the tap water flowing from its Catskill and Delaware aqueducts.   New York Post_5/25/05

Six Toronto water staffers suspended, fired after probe
The police fraud squad is investigating allegations that Toronto Water staff either recommended particular private contractors or tipped them off when residents called to complain about sewage in their basements, city officials say.

Six Toronto Water employees, including supervisors and front-line staff, have been fired and four have been suspended after an internal probe into the allegations. 

The Globe and Mail_5/20/05

Washington court overturns water-use rules
The Washington state Court of Appeals tossed out state rules on groundwater-pumping rights in the Deschutes River Basin, saying the regulations don't comply with required stream protection under the state's waterway law. The ruling by a three-judge panel unanimously overturned groundwater-use-permit rules adopted by the state Water Resources Commission in 2002.  The Deschutes is among the rivers protected under the scenic-waterway law passed by voters 35 years ago.  John Devoe, WaterWatch executive director, said he believed the ruling is the first of its kind under the waterways law and is a significant reinforcement of its protections.  The Seattle Times _5/19/05

Australian mining company Energy Resources Australia (ERA) pleads guilty to contaminating water supply of miners with uranium

ERA pleaded guilty to three charges, and faces fines of A$300,000 (US$230,000). Twenty-eight workers fell sick last year after drinking and showering in water allegedly containing 400 times the allowable limit of uranium. The incident happened in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. ERA is owned by global mining firm Rio Tinto, and is the world's third largest uranium miner. On 23 March 2004, a tube carrying water used in the processing of uranium was mistakenly connected to a drinking supply at the Ranger mine, Darwin Magistrates Court was told. BBC News_ 5/6/05

City of San Diego settles wastewater treatment lawsuit by agreeing to $187 million in sewer projects to shore up dilapidated system

Enough sewer improvement projects are under way to meet the terms of the deal, which arises from a 2001 lawsuit in which two environmental groups charged that frequent sewage spills violated the federal Clean Water Act. The federal government later joined the lawsuit filed by San Diego Baykeeper and the Surfrider Foundation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the settlement, filed in San Diego federal court, was as good as possible given the city's severe financial problems. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/5/05

DeSoto County, Mississippi sues Memphis over millions of gallons of water drawn each day from the Memphis Sand Aquifer

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Oxford, alleges the water rightfully belongs to DeSoto County and the state of Mississippi. The suit is similar to one filed in March by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood that seeks millions of dollars in damages and asks the court to require that Memphis use Mississippi River water to supply some of its needs. Both complaints allege Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division is pumping water from the Memphis Sand aquifer, also known as the Sparta Aquifer, at such a rate that it is drawing water northward from the area under Mississippi. Memphis authorities have denied that pumping is excessive or that it has damaged the aquifer. The Memphis Sand Aquifer is located 500 feet beneath western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas and northwestern Mississippi. It ranges from 400 to 900 feet thick and consists mostly of a thick layer of sand with varying amounts of clay and silt. It is recharged from surface deposits and rain. AP/Sun Herald_ 5/5/05

April, 2005

Los Angeles still in Owens Valley water fight

State officials and environmentalists are urging a judge to sanction the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for falling behind in its efforts to restore a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River. The effort is already two years behind schedule. Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee Cooper on April 25 will consider the lawsuit, which accuses the DWP of placing a higher priority on saving money and water than on meeting its legal obligations. Sanctions could include a fine or limiting the DWP's pumping of groundwater in the Owens Valley. The Eastern Sierra is the city's cheapest source of water, according to plaintiffs' documents.Some water now going into the Los Angeles Aqueduct would be diverted into the riverbed and then sent back to the aqueduct after it completed its run of the river. Los Angeles Times_ 4/18/05 (logon required)

Neville Chemical Co. to spend $2 million on above ground piping system, ending efforts by Pennsylvania to collect $17 million for environmental violations, company reports

Ken Bowman, the state Department of Environmental Protection's southwest regional director, said the agreement resolves a decade of litigation and will benefit the Neville Island community by preventing further pollution from entering the groundwater. Changing to an above-ground piping system will minimize the chance of leaks and make them easier for the company to detect and repair. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review_ 4/9/05

California Supreme Court rules cost not a reason to skirt Clean Water Act

The court said the cities of Burbank and Los Angeles cannot use cost as a reason for not meeting federal clean water requirements in treating sewage. The case stemmed from a dispute between the cities and the state Water Resources Control Board over what can be dumped into the Los Angeles River by three local water treatment plants. Together the plants — two in Los Angeles and one in Burbank — process hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage each day. The justices ruled, however, that water boards could consider cost if the pollutant limits were more stringent than the federal standards. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/4/05

Whistleblowers allege harrassment over groundwater pumping allegations at Yucca Mountain

Pipe fitters at Yucca Mountain say they were instructed to damage the tunnel's main water line and install a pipe to bypass a state water meter at the federal nuclear waste repository site in Nevada. The claims are made in a federal Labor Department whistle-blower case and in interviews with former contract workers at the site, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Ronald Dollens of Pahrump said he was harassed before Yucca Mountain project contractor Bechtel SAIC fired him in May 2003 for reporting what he claimed were violations of worker safety and Environmental Protection Agency laws including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. It was not clear whether the bypass was installed. A labor investigator has recommended that Bechtel SAIC pay Dollens $250,000 for retaliating after he complained. Bechtel SAIC has appealed. No trial has been set before an administrative law judge. Las Vegas Review-Journal/AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/4/05

March, 2005

Judge rejects effort by cities and developers to stop a Los Angeles County storm water cleanup plan that would reduce the largest source of pollution to the California coast

The ruling supports the Regional Water Quality Control Board and three conservation groups and rejects the argument that the state's water quality standards did not apply to polluted runoff, but only to sewage treatment plants and pollution from factories. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/28/05

Colorado Supreme Court rules 1878 contract prevents irrigation water from being used for drinking water for new houses

In a ruling that could affect similar cases statewide, the court said East Ridge of Fort Collins LLC, which bought 160 acres northeast of the city for its proposed development, had to comply with the original 130-year-old water-use contracts that were attached to the land. East Ridge's contracts stemmed from a ditch dug in 1864 to irrigate farmland from the Cache la Poudre River. The ditch's original operators specified that the water was to be used only for irrigation. AP/Denver Post_ 3/22/05

Indonesia's Supreme Court rules investigation of five Newmont Mining Corp. executives is legal

The ruling clears the way for the five men to face trial on water pollution allegations. Police already have completed their investigation into the executives from Newmont Minahasa Raya, the Denver-based company's local unit. If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in jail. Jakarta's determination to press charges against Newmont has cheered green activists, who have long complained that foreign mining operations in Indonesia skirt environmental laws. But it risks spooking investors who complain that Indonesia's legal system and police are inefficient and corrupt. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/17/05

Former Sacramento, California water official sentenced to 21 months in prison

Jerry Allen Ness, 62, the former assistant general manager for Sacramento's Northridge Water District was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion and mail fraud. Ness is the second water district official convicted in the case. Former general manager Dewight Frances Kramer, 80, pleaded guilty to income tax fraud, and was sentenced to four months in prison. Kramer testified against Ness as part of his plea deal. Ness and Kramer were accused of hiding $516,332 in taxable income earned by themselves and other water district employees by listing it in accounts for sick leave, vacations, bonuses, salary advances and credit card purchases. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/11/05

Indonesian government sues Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. for $133.6 million for alleged water pollution

The lawsuit claims the company and its president director Robert Hubert Ness created pollution that damaged the environment and caused skin diseases to people living around Buyat Bay in northern Sulawesi province. Last year, tests on the bay's water produced conflicting results. The World Health Organization and an initial Environment Ministry report found the water unpolluted. But a subsequent ministry study found arsenic levels in the seabed were 100 times higher at the waste-dumping site than in other parts of the bay. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/10/05

Dave Matthews Band driver pleads guilty to dumping 800 pounds of human waste from bus' septic tank onto a sightseeing boat on the Chicago River

Stefan Wohl, 42, was sentenced to 18 months probation, 150 hours of community service and fined the maximum of $10,000. Authorities said that on Aug. 8, when Wohl was alone in a bus, he emptied the septic tank while driving across the open grating deck of Chicago's Kinzie Street bridge. The waste poured onto the open deck of the Chicago's Little Lady tour boat, which was passing below with more than 100 passengers. The band cooperated in the investigation. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/9/05

Mississippi sues Memphis, Tennessee for tapping underground water supplies

The complaint asks the court to order Memphis to start obtaining a portion of its water from the Mississippi River, which would require Memphis to build a treatment plant costing millions. Unlike other water disputes in the Southeast that have involved the use of rivers, the Mississippi case asks for repayment for underground water resources "owned by, and subject to the right of use" by the state. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division withdraws 160 million to 200 million gallons a day from the Memphis Sand aquifer. The aquifer is a deep zone of saturated sand and gravel that filters the water trickling through it to a high level of purity. The Memphis Sand extends into portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky. "MLGW's use of the aquifer has not harmed this vital resource in the past, nor will our anticipated future use pose a threat," utility president Joseph Lee said. AP/Lexington Herald-Leader_ 3/5/06

Four California fraternity members charged with involuntary manslaughter in water poisoning death of 21-year-old pledge

In addition, the four California State University Chico fraternity members and four other members of Chi Tau fraternity, are charged with misdemeanor hazing in the Feb. 2 death of Matthew Carrington of Pleasant Hill, California. The manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of four years in state prison, and the hazing charge carries a maximum of one year in county jail and a $5,000 fine. Carrington died in the basement of the Chi Tau fraternity house after participating in an all-night ritual where pledges were forced to drink gallons of water and perform calisthenics while being doused with ice water.  San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/3/05

Member of Southern California's West Basin Municipal Water District sentenced to two years in federal prison for taking $25,000 bribe

Tyrone Smith, 47, of Ladera Heights is one of about a dozen officials who had been convicted following a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe in to municipal corruption in the town of Carson. U.S. District Judge Nora Manella also ordered Smith to pay $25,000 in restitution to the water district and serve three years of probation after being released from prison. Smith in 2003 pleaded guilty to one count of extortion and six counts of money laundering in connection to his vote to award a debt refinancing contract to M.R. Beal & Co. of New York. In exchange, prosecutors said, Smith steered the contract to Beal's partner in the deal, Rice Financial Products Co., which is also based in New York. R. Keith McDonald, former president of the water board, was sentenced earlier this month to 41 months in prison on corruption charges. He is the son of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Carson, who was not charged in the case. A federal jury found McDonald guilty of taking $30,000 in kickbacks in exchange for the award of a pipeline contract that is worth millions of dollars. He was also found guilty of funneling $15,000 to three Carson City Council members in exchange for their votes to support a municipal bus contract. Los Angeles Times/AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/1/05

February, 2005

West Virginia judge OKs $107.6 million Teflon chemical water pollution settlement

Wood County Circuit Judge George W. Hill approved the settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging a chemical used in making the nonstick substance Teflon contaminated water supplies near DuPont Co.'s Washington Works plant. Hill noted that the settlement was finalized without any evidence that perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C8, caused any disease. The lawsuit was filed in August 2001 on behalf of residents living near the plant, located on the Ohio River about 7 miles southwest of Parkersburg, who said their drinking supply was contaminated by PFOA. DuPont has denied any wrongdoing but said in September it decided to enter into the agreement because of the time and expense of litigation. Seattle Post-Intelligencer_ 2/28/05

Phoenix fires top water boss
City mum on specifics; official "flabbergasted"

Phoenix officials fired the city's water director Friday,  Feb. 25, four weeks after he had been reassigned to other duties in the wake of the city's water scare in late January.  City managers wouldn't give specifics on why they fired Mike Gritzuk, a 17-year veteran who was responsible for issuing an advisory last month that urged the city's 1.4 million water users to boil water before drinking.  Gritzuk said he is suing to recoup damage to his reputation, adding that he was "flabbergasted" when he was told late Thursday that he was fired as of 5 p.m. Friday.   The Arizona Republic_2/26/05 (Logon Required)

Three found guilty of violating Clean Water Act

Developers and real estate agent who sold wetland lots to hundreds of families, despite warnings from public health officials, were found guilty in U.S. District Court in Gulfport Miss. of 41 federal charges relating to the federal Clean Water Act, as well as other offenses.   "In turning more than 1,000 acres of wetlands into a housing development with failing septic systems that were illegally installed, the defendants violated the very laws intended to protect the environment and public health," federal prosecutors said. Violation of the Clean Water Act carries a maximum three years in prison per count.  Clarion Ledger_2/26/05

Former Chula Vista, California water district inspector sentenced for bribe

William Ray Cooper, 45, a former inspector for the Otay Water District, was sentenced to one year in a work-release program and three years of probation. He faced a maximum term of four years in prison. In a telephone conversation taped on Aug. 4, Cooper told a contractor he would overlook construction deficiencies in underground water and sewer lines in two Chula Vista home developments in exchange for $5,000. AP/Mercury News_ 2/16/05 (logon required)

Former president of Los Angeles County's West Basin Municipal Water District sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for bribery and money laundering

Keith McDonald also is the son of U.S. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Torrance. In addition to his prison term, McDonald was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution. In October, a jury found McDonald guilty on four counts of mail fraud, two counts of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and three counts of money laundering. Los Angeles Business Journal_ 2/14/05

Las Vegas-area water, power utilities declare truce after years of acrimony and distrust

They pledged to drop lawsuits and an adversarial buy-out attempt. Southern Nevada Water Authority, Nevada Power Co. and state Colorado River Commission executives said they would unite behind the electric utility's bid to avoid having to pay $300 million to bankrupt energy trader Enron Corp. The water authority is Nevada Power's biggest customer. Nevada Power needs water to produce and provide power to customers. The Colorado River Commission manages Nevada's water and power from the Colorado River, source of almost all of Las Vegas' drinking water. AP/Las Vegas Sun_ 2/10/05

U.S. federal judge orders more study of $145 million pipeline project to bring Missouri River water to northwestern and north-central North Dakota

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer called for a hearing on whether the Northwest Area Water Supply project should continue. Manitoba, Canada, had asked her to stop construction until more studies are done on its impact. NAWS is designed to bring water from Lake Sakakawea to Minot, N.D., where it will be treated and sent to other communities. Construction began in 2002, with plans to begin treating water in 2007 and finish the entire project in 2016. Manitoba sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its parent agency, the Interior Department, in October 2002, challenging NAWS. Canadian officials worried about the potential transfer of unwanted aquatic life into the Hudson Bay Basin through the Souris River basin, which flows north into Canada and sought a more comprehensive environmental review. AP/CNews_ 2/4/05

Kentucky American Water attacks credentials of Lexington's consultant in condemnation fight

And in other action:

• Vice Mayor Mike Scanlon, on his own dime, sent letters on city letterhead that attacked some of the people listed on that letterhead for their stances on condemnation.

• A pivotal councilman said Scanlon was pressuring him to vote to end condemnation of Kentucky American in exchange for Scanlon's support on another issue.

To top it off, much of the sound and fury was timed for an Urban County Council vote that might not take place as anticipated. In anticipation of the vote, Kentucky American Water launched a broadside at George Raftelis, a consultant the city hired to put a value on the utility. Lexington Herald-Leader_ 2/1/05

January, 2005

California cheese plant, which claims to be world's largest, fined $4 million for illegally flushing waste and polluting water

The action against Hilmar Cheese Co. of Merced County by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board occurred the same day the company's co-owner, Chuck Ahlem, resigned as the state's undersecretary of agriculture, saying he needed to tend to wastewater issues. The penalty is for just less than three years of daily water pollution violations since January 2002. But it follows a record of nearly 16 years of unchecked violations that were exposed by The Sacramento Bee last month. Hilmar Cheese said it was reviewing the proposed fine and expected to have a water treatment facility operating in a few months to solve the problems. If the company doesn't appeal the penalty to the agency, it must pay the fine by Feb. 26. The cheese company has been a major political donor. Ahlem was appointed to the water board by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, from 1996-2000. After supporting Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, the company gave $21,200 to Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful gubernatorial campaign in the recall election. Ahlem became second-in-command at the Department of Food and Agriculture three months after the Republican governor took office.  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 1/29/05

Boston's Big Dig project pumped millions of gallons of water into sewer system

The $14.6 billion Big Dig project has a permit from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to pump out 36,000 gallons of water per month from tunnels under Boston. But MWRA records obtained by The Boston Globe show the project has been pumping out a monthly average of 2.2 million gallons. The MWRA's investigation could result in fines for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the agency overseeing the project. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 1/29/05

Dave Matthews Band bus driver charged in Chicago waste dumping incident

Stefan Wohl, 42, of Selma, Texas, is charged with misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct and discharging contaminates to cause water pollution, Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said. The charges carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. He's accused of dumping 800 pounds of human waste onto the sightseeing boat Little Lady as it cruised last summer under a Chicago River bridge. About 100 people were on board the boat. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 1/19/05

 

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