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March 18, 2013

Charges dismissed for Quinton man accused of polluting state water

McALESTER — Charges have been dismissed for a Quinton man who was accused of polluting state water.

Ermon Lee Russell Jr., 41, was charged Nov. 1 in Pittsburg County District Court with one felony count of discharging pollutants into state waters without a permit and two misdemeanor counts of making a false statement or representation to the Department of Environmental Quality.

On March 8, the case against Russell was dismissed. “We didn’t have sufficient evidence to continue prosecuting the case,” said District 18 Assistant district Attorney Chuck Sullivan.

According to court records, Russell operated the Pittsburg County Rural Water District No. 14 plant in 2011. On several occasions, the DEQ inspected the plant in 2011 and “noticed a discharge pipe leading from the backwash water pond to the stormwater ditch in the north side of the property,” according to an affidavit written by Michael Freeman, a DEQ officer.

On Aug. 11, 2011, that discharge pipe “was actively discharging wastewater,” Freeman’s affidavit states. Discharging pollutants into state waters without a permit to do so is a violation of the Oklahoma Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Act, according to Freeman’s affidavit.

The OPDES Act was passed by Oklahoma legislature “with intent of reducing or eliminating the discharge of potentially toxic pollutants into waters of the state, where they could affect drinking water sources and cause other environmental hazards,” Freeman’s affidavit continues.

Vivian Moody, of the Pittsburg County Rural Water District, said that Russell worked as a contract employee for RWD No. 14 beginning in 1999. He resigned in November 2011, Moody said. “It was a mutual agreement that he resigned,” Moody said. “They (the water board members) were going to fire him anyway. So he just quit so it looked better on him.”

In November, the News-Capital requested Moody provide various RWD documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Included in the requested documents were Russell’s monthly operating reports and copies of any DEQ permits allowing pollutant dumping given to the Pittsburg County RWD. The requested documents had not been provided by presstime today.

Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@mcalesternews.com.

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone.

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