Environmental Enforcement: Wastewater CEO Sent to Prison

by | Jun 14, 2011

An owner and operator of wastewater treatment facilities has been sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to 21 months in prison and a $310,000 criminal fine for violating the Clean Water Act.

Jeffrey Pruett, the CEO of LWC Management Company, Inc. and principal of Louisiana Land & Water Company (LLWC), in Monroe, La., received 21 months for seven felony counts and 12 months for one misdemeanor count, which will be served concurrently, followed by one year of supervised release. In addition, LLWC was ordered to pay a $300,000 fine, and LWC was ordered to pay $240,000, for a total of $850,000.

His violations polluted local drinking water supplies and threatened public health, the EPA said. Its investigation stemmed from customer complaints about sewage backups at residences and tainted water from the taps. The state also received complaints about sewage discharges into roadside ditches near residences and improper termination of residents’ sewage and water services, the EPA said.

Pruett’s sentence also includes a victim witness assessment fee of $725 to be paid by Pruett, a $2,800 victim witness assessment fee to be paid by LLWC, and a $400 victim witness assessment fee to be paid by LWC, reports The Bastrop Enterprise.

Pruett was convicted in January 2011 by a federal jury for multiple violations of the Clean Water Act, including the failure to provide and maintain records, illegal discharge of pollutants and improper operation and maintenance of a facility. The case was investigated by the EPA and the state of Louisiana, and was prosecuted by the Office of the United States Attorney, Western District of Louisiana, the EPA said.

Beginning in April 1999, Pruett and his companies provided sewer and wastewater treatment plant services to the Bayou Galion, Charmingdale Estates, Daywood and Donovan Woods, Love Estates, and Pine Bayou subdivisions of Monroe, La. Homeowners paid for sewage and wastewater treatment plant services based on rates set by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the EPA said.

Pruett and LLWC were found guilty of six felony violations of failure to maintain and provide records for all of these Monroe subdivisions. Pruett and LLWC were also found guilty of one felony count of effluent violations pertaining to the Love Estates subdivision. Pruett was found guilty of one misdemeanor/negligent count of failure to provide proper operation and maintenance pertaining to the Pine Bayou subdivision.

A receiver has taken over operations of Louisiana Land and Water Co. at the joint request by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals until it can be sold, reports The News Star.

Pruett’s company operates more than 30 public water supply systems and wastewater treatment units in northeastern Louisiana, and it holds an estimated $6.5 million in net regulatory assets. All of the facilities will be placed under the receiver. Liberty, a subsidiary of the Canadian utility Algonquin Power & Utilities, is in discussions to buy Louisiana Land and Water and has identified several million dollars in improvements to upgrade the service and provide clean water, according to The News Star.

Picture credit: Sean

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