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Owner and Operator of Wastewater Treatment Facilities Sentenced for Violating the Clean Water Act / Jeffrey Pruett to serve 21 months in prison

Release Date: 06/09/2011
Contact Information: Stacy Kika, Kika.stacy@epa.gov, 202-564-0906, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON — Jeffrey Pruett, 58, of West Monroe, La. was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to a total of 33 months incarceration. He received 21 months for seven felony counts and 12 months for one misdemeanor count, which will be served concurrently. Pruett and the two companies he owned and operated are also collectively responsible for paying a $310,000 criminal fine. The violations threatened local drinking water supplies and people’s health by failing to meet the required Clean Water Act standards.

"Mr. Pruett’s disregard for the law led to sewage backups in people’s homes and endangered public health,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence proves that those who knowingly break environmental laws will be held accountable for their criminal actions.”

Pruett was Chief Executive Officer of LWC Management Company, Inc. (LWC) and Principal Officer of Louisiana Land & Water Company (LLWC) and was responsible for overseeing the operations and finances of both companies. Testimony during the federal trial showed that 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 in the Monroe subdivisions were required to pay a fee for sewage and wastewater treatment plant services based on rates set by the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

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.

Facilities that discharge effluent from wastewater treatment plants are required to obtain state discharge permits, in this case, from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. These permits required LLWC and LWC to properly operate and maintain sewage systems and wastewater treatment and control facilities and provide adequate staff qualified to ensure that the company complied with pollutant limits. The state received numerous customer complaints about sewage backups at residences and cloudy, tainted water coming out of the taps. The state also received complaints about sewage discharges into roadside ditches near residences and improper termination of residents’ sewage and water services.

Pruett and LLWC were found guilty of six felony violations of failure to maintain and provide records pertaining to all of the Monroe subdivisions. Pruett and LLWC were also found guilty of one felony count of effluent violations pertaining to 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.

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.

More information on EPA’s criminal enforcement program: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/criminal/index.html