City agrees to pay $50,000 fine for illegally discharging sewage into the lake and not cleaning it up; Mayor Johnny Franzeskos breaks tie vote on fine payment plan, signs agreement with feds Monday


The city of Lake Ozark pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to illegally discharging sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks.
“The city of Lake Ozark created a serious public health hazard by repeatedly discharging raw sewage directly into the Lake of the Ozarks,” U.S. District Attorney John F. Wood said. “Today’s plea agreement holds the city accountable for those violations and commits Lake Ozark to upgrade and maintain its wastewater treatment system. These actions will help keep one of our state’s most popular natural resources safe for the public to enjoy.”
Lake Ozark Mayor Johnny Franzeskos signed the plea agreement on Monday, Aug. 25. In the plea, the city admitted to repeatedly discharging raw, untreated sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the city will pay a fine of $50,000. The city also agreed to upgrade and maintain its wastewater treatment system and to report any and all bypasses from its treatment system and lift stations as required by the state.
The $50,000 will be paid over a period of five years. Until the fine is paid off, the city will be on probation.The city had two options. Pay within one year and face a one-year probation or spread it out over five years. The payment plan was discussed behind closed doors during an executive session several weeks ago.
When it came time to vote, the members of the board of aldermen split down the middle, with half in favor of the one-year plan with a shorter probationary period. The others wanted the five-year plan to ease the financial burden on the city.
In the end, the mayor was called on to break the tie vote. He sided with the aldermen in favor of the five-year plan.
In a separate but related case, Richard L. Sturgeon, 52, of Eldon, Mo., the city’s former public works director, pleaded guilty on July 31, 2008,  to failing to report the discharge of raw sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks.
The city of Lake Ozark has a history of overflows or bypass events from its lift stations into the Lake of the Ozarks. The plea agreement cites numerous examples from among hundreds of bypasses shown on police reports, daily logs and citizen complaint forms.
In the most recent incident, Missouri Department of Natural Resources staff observed that a lift station was experiencing a bypass on Sept. 11, 2007, resulting in a discharge of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Lake of the Ozarks. DNR staff noted that the sewage caused a dark plume in the water at the lake.
A sample analysis of water collected from the Lake of the Ozarks showed extremely elevated levels for ammonia nitrogen and fecal coliform exceeding the criteria for whole body contact recreation.
The computerized lift station maintenance log indicates that the pumps were down during August and September 2007.
DNR notified the city of the bypass, and the city responded and stopped the flow, but conducted no cleanup and provided no written notification of the bypass. On Sept. 13, 2007, DNR staff visited the site, and no cleanup had been started. DNR contacted Sturgeon and requested a cleanup of the area. The bypass was never reported to DNR as required by the city’s permit.
This was investigated by the  EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Sturgeon had been the head of public works for the city for a number of years. He and the city parted ways late last year. Since then, the city has hired an engineering firm to work with the public works department.
Contact this reporter at joycem@lakesunleader.com