Missouri Attorney General sues businesses over wastewater in lake

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:56 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 10, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — A restaurant and two condominium developments near the Lake of the Ozarks allowed sewage to be dumped into the popular central Missouri lake, state Attorney General Chris Koster claims in two lawsuits filed Monday.

The lawsuits were filed against Sunset Palms and Royale Palms condominiums and against Shady Gators restaurant and bar. The businesses have their own systems they are supposed to use to treat the wastewater that eventually ends up in the lake.

Water quality at the lake has been a prominent issue this year since revelations that Missouri's environmental agency did not file timely report about high E. coli results. Since then, the Department of Natural Resources has inspected more than 400 facilities with discharge permits into the lake.

The lawsuit against the condominiums alleges that their wastewater treatment system has cracks in the wall of a holding track, a basin and in a pipe that has allowed untreated or partially treated sewage into the lake. The lawsuit claims that improperly treated wastewater has been allowed to pollute the lake at Sunset Palms since Aug. 9, 2007. Improperly treated water has entered the lake at Royale Palms since Aug. 17, 2006, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit against Shady Gators alleges that at least on June 18, 2007, the restaurant bypassed its treatment system, allowing raw or partially treated sewage into the lake. The suit also claims that on June 23, 2008, and days in July 2008, the restaurant allowed water to be discharged into the lake that exceeded maximum limits for the fecal coliform bacteria. The restaurant is also accused of failing to file necessary reports with the Department of Natural Resources.

Gary Prewitt, who owns Shady Gators, denied discharging sewage into the lake and said Monday that he was unaware of the lawsuit until contacted by a reporter. He said other problems mentioned in the lawsuit were fixed after a DNR inspection.

"I know we didn't let any raw sewage out into the lake," he said.

Prewitt said there were problems with filing monitoring reports about the business' wastewater because state notices were sent to a former business partner and not forwarded.

Mark Kelly, who owns the condominium developments, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Koster, a Democrat, said that his office would aggressively pursue cases in which people are accused of contaminating the lake.

"Raw sewage in the lake is not acceptable," Koster said.

A Missouri Clean Water Commission document from March 2009 notes that inspections at the Royale Palms had found numerous problems over several years and recommended that the commission ask the attorney general's office to take legal action.

Koster's lawsuits were filed in Camden County, which encompasses much of the shoreline for the Lake of the Ozarks.

Koster is seeking a court order directing the condominiums and restaurant to follow state clean water laws, pay court costs and a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day that clean water laws were violated.


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