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TDL Utilities lawsuit continued pending possible agreement

A civil case involving the Terre Du Lac Utilities Corp. is continued to Dec. 17, pending a possible agreement for the company to be sold. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed a petition in 2010 for injunction against the utility company alleging wastewater treatment violations. 

An almost decade-old case between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Terre Du Lac Utilities Corp., and owner Michael Tilley, was scheduled for a trial Tuesday however, it was rescheduled after a letter of intent was signed indicating the possible sale of the utility company.

Several Terre Du Lac residents convened at the courthouse at 1 p.m. for what they thought was going to be a resolution to the case that was filed in 2010 alleging several water treatment violations on the part of Terre Du Lac Utilities.

Associate Circuit Judge Robin Fulton announced shortly after everyone entered the courtroom that the case was not going to proceed to trial as scheduled.

Fulton said that both parties in the case were attempting to reach an agreement in which the utility company would be sold to a different company — Central States Water Resources — that has the funds to make the DNR-required changes and upgrades, bringing the water system into compliance.

A hearing is now scheduled for Dec. 17 at 10 a.m. where either an agreement between the parties will be announced or the case will be scheduled for trial. 

A petition was filed on Aug. 24, 2010, by then-Attorney General Chris Koster and DNR against Terre Du Lac Utilities, Inc. and Tilley requesting an injunction against the utility company as well as civil penalties.

This petition, although scheduled for trial several times, has been continued and delayed for the past nine years. Since the case was initially filed, a partial order of preliminary injunction has been granted by the court but DNR alleges the utility company has yet to fully comply with the order.

The allegations of the petition state that Tilley, either alone or in conjunction with others, exercised control over the operations of Terre Du Lac Utilities Inc. and the particular activities that constitute a violation of the Missouri Clean Water Law, Missouri Safe Drinking Water Law, and implementing regulations described in the petition.

Terre Du Lac Utilities, Inc. is a Public Service Commission-regulated utility company which owns and operates three wastewater treatment facilities and a public water system that serves the private community of Terre Du Lac.

According to the allegations, Tilley owns three wastewater treatment facilities: the oxidation ditch, the north lagoon, and the south lagoon.

The oxidation ditch serves approximately 650 homes and discharges effluent into an unnamed tributary of the Big River. The north lagoon is a three-cell lagoon with primary and secondary cell aeration serving about 510 homes and discharges effluent into Three Hill Creek. The south lagoon is a single cell lagoon serving about 18 homes that discharge effluent to an unnamed tributary of Cabanne Course. The term “effluent” refers to liquid waste or sewage that flows from a treatment plant.

The petition filed in 2010 alleges that on July 28, 2009, and other dates unspecified, contaminated sludge was passing from the oxidation ditch and the contaminated sludge was in the oxidation ditch’s effluent, the clarifier, the grassy area around the treatment facility, and in the unnamed tributary of the Big River.

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On July 28, 2009, the effluent from the oxidation ditch had samples that indicated total suspended solids of 90 mg/liter and total residual chlorine of 2.20 mg/liter, according to the state’s petition. These levels exceeded the limits of the Missouri Clean Water Law.

Also on July 28, 2009, there were sludge deposits from the south lagoon in the unnamed tributary of the Cabanne Course and on the same date there were sludge deposits from the north lagoon in Three Hill Creek.

The petition states that pursuant to 644.076.1, RSMo, it is unlawful for any person to cause or permit discharge of water contaminants from any water contaminant or point source located in Missouri by law as well as rules and regulation of the Clean Water Commission.

According to the document, since 2003, Tilley was the president of Terre Du Lac Utilities Corp. and is, therefore, the supplier of drinking water to residents of the community.

This 9-year-old petition alleges that Tilley committed the following acts: Tilley caused the pollution of waters by permitting water contamination to be in a place reasonably certain to cause water pollution.

In addition, Tilley is alleged to have allowed sludge to enter the tributaries of Big River, Three Hill Creek, and the Cabanne Course. The petition claims that Tilley’s actions were in violation of the law when he allowed contaminants to be placed in a location that was reasonably certain to cause pollution.

This petition also alleges that Terre Du Lac Utilities failed to retain a certified operator to oversee the waste management and drinking water systems. In addition, the document states that the company failed to prevent a bypass of the wastewater management system. Further, the petition states that Tilley failed to report a breach or bypass of the wastewater system.

Tilley also allegedly failed to submit discharge monitoring reports to the Department of Natural Resources and also failed to do required laboratory testing of both wastewater and drinking water. The court document states that Tilley failed to upgrade facilities to comply with the Missouri Clean Water Law, the Public Service Commission, and DNR Guidelines.

The petition further alleges that Tilley failed to notify residents, as required by law that he failed to perform required water testing.

Requested by the petition is that Terre Du Lac Utilities be subject to an injunction and a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day for each day that a violation of the Missouri Clean Water Law occurred.

The petition asked that the court issue an injunction prohibiting further violations of the Missouri Drinking Water Law and the Missouri Clean Water Law, assess a civil penalty of $10,000 per day in violation of the Missouri Clean Water Law, assess a civil penalty of $50 per day for the first violation and $100 per day for the second violation of the Missouri Safe Drinking Water Law, and other such reliefs as may be just and proper.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office declined to comment as the litigation is still ongoing.

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