A former public works director has become the first person to plead guilty from a tip sent to the EPA's "Report an Environmental Violation" website, which was launched in 2006 for citizens to provide details about potential violations of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), illegal disposal of hazardous waste, and tampering with drinking water supplies.
Richard Sturgeon could be sentenced for up to three years without parole and fined up to $250,000 for failing to report illegal discharges from a 2.4 mgd wastewater treatment plant co-owned by the cities of Lake of the Ozarks and Osage Beach in Missouri.
Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for the EPA's enforcement and compliance assurance program, labels the case "a great example of how the public can help federal and state authorities fight environmental crime." I don't know if this former public servant is guilty or innocent, and it's not my intention to pass judgment on his choices (Click here for more). I do know, however, that Public Works readers are often caught between a rock and a hard place.
For those of you not living in the Midwest, the 54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks is the linchpin of a huge resort and conference industry that contributes millions-perhaps billions-annually to central Missouri's economy. Developers were selling plats even before the Osage River was dammed in 1928 to lure vacationers from St. Louis, Kansas City, and other land-locked areas to the picturesque Ozark Mountains and 1,150 miles of cove-indented shoreline.
I can imagine the pressure to avoid saying, doing, or reporting anything that might diminish the lake's appeal. But perhaps I'm being naïve.
The last time I wrote, I asked if you text-message to communicate at work. Almost 80% of you said no. Now we're wondering if you've ever felt pressured to not report a permit violation, so we ask that you click here to simply click 'yes' or 'no.' Responses are completely anonymous. But if you'd like to comment further-on your experience specifically or the issue of permitting and violations in general-please don't hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your input.