Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two-Tons of Dirty Laundry

The Benton/Washington County Regional Public Water Authority (Two-Ton) supplies water to 17 cities and water districts, including Siloam Springs, Bella Vista, Lincoln, and Prairie Grove. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued a consent administrative order in December, 2008, fining the Authority $13,100 for illegal discharge of sediment and sludge and for altering lagoons without proper authorization. In 2007, the agency cited the Authority for improper sediment storage and not reporting treated water flows as required.

Scott Borman, Director of the Authority, says he's not sure whether his Board will agree to pay the fine, even after it was negotiated down to $9,100. Larry Oelrich of Prairie Grove, Chairman of the Board, is hopping mad and thinks the solution is to remove Dr. Walter Kreeger, one of the Board members who communicated with an AEDQ enforcement officer regarding the violations that resulted in the fine. Oelrich has been after Kreeger since last summer, shortly after the AEDQ inspection that documented the violations last May.

Kreeger had sent several emails to AEDQ, in one saying that he could provide a former Two-Ton employee who could verify violations occurred and that sludge material was put under piles of dirt on the authority's property. Oelrich didn't like that one bit and said, "He's working in the worst interest of the authority." He contends that Kreeger has the unpleasant knack for disagreeing with the majority of the board and "makes a habit of seeking out disgruntled ex-employees to try to get dirt on Mr. Borman."

Like many of these regional boards in Northwest Arkansas, the Benton/Washington County Regional Public Water Authority is packed with good ol' boys who don't like to be questioned. Instead of trying to fix the environmental problems or firing the paid director, their solution is to can the board member who squealed on them and get back to business as usual. Where the sun don't shine.

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