Water Director Disputes State Claims
LAST UPDATED WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2008 9:01 PM CST IN NEWS
By Caleb Fort
THE MORNING NEWS
A local water authority director says he will refuse to pay a fine and take other actions outlined in a proposed order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
The proposed consent administrative order cites several permit violations at the Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority's water treatment plant near Avoca, including improper discharge of sediment and changing the plant's configuration without proper notification.
Scott Borman, the authority's director, said the order contains several inaccuracies and he will refuse to sign it.
For example, the order states the authority widened three lagoons without following the proper procedures for notifying the state about physical changes to the plant. Borman said only two lagoons were affected, and they were not changed in a way that altered their performance.
The proposed order includes a $13,100 fine and would require the authority obtain permits for changes to the plant.
Borman sent a letter to the department Dec. 18 outlining his objections to the order.
Theresa Marks, the department's director, said staff members will meet with Borman to discuss his disagreement with the order.
"We do stand by the fact that we feel like violations have taken place," she said.
She declined to address specific elements of Borman's letter.
Borman said he will try to meet with department officials in January.
The department's investigation began after a dispute between the authority and Larry Mills, a cattle farmer who owns land at 15011 Woods Lodge Road, west of the treatment plant.
Mills is a board member of Benton County Water District 1.
Walter Kreeger and Wayne Allen, who represent the district on the authority's board of directors, have butted heads with Borman in the past, but Mills said his board position has no relevance to his dispute with the authority.
Mills said he built two ponds downstream from the plant several years ago to catch the plant's discharge for his cattle.
Sediment in the discharged water gradually turned one pond into "a sludge pit," he said.
Mills said he complained several times about the plant's dirty discharge, but his pond kept filling up. He said he asked the authority to fix the pond, to no avail. Finally, he said, he complained to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which performed inspections on Oct. 9, 2007, and May 7, 2008.
The proposed order is based on those inspections.
Borman said the plant's permit allows it to discharge about 30,000 pounds of sediment per year. Because Mills built the ponds to capture the plant's discharge, he should have been aware of potential for sediment buildup, Borman said.
AT A GLANCE
Alleged Permit Violations
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a proposed administrative order to the Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority based on two inspections the department says revealed permit violations. Authority Director Scott Borman disputes several of the violation.
• ADEQ: The authority widened three lagoons without proper approval from the state, violating the authority's treatment plant permit.
Borman: The authority only worked on two lagoons as part of routine maintenance. The work did not change the lagoon's operation.
• ADEQ: The authority discharged sediment or sludge into the receiving stream.
Borman: The authority's permit allows some sediment discharge, and the authority has stayed within the permit limit. Removing the sediment from Larry Mills' pond adjacent to the treatment plant could put the authority in a tricky legal position if the pond was not constructed with the proper permit.
• ADEQ: There was improper storage of sludge or sediment from the plant's lagoons.
Borman: The material does not pose any environmental hazard and was stored safely.
• ADEQ: The authority did not properly record flows.
Borman: The authority was responsible for this violation and took actions to correct it.
Source: Staff Report