Dirty Water from Centerville Texas

by Simon Hoffman and Paul DeVilbis

 

A federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the convictions and prison sentence of a former owner of a Shreveport wastewater treatment facility who instructed employees to illegally dump untreated wastewater into the Red River and the city’s sewer system. John Tuma of Centerville Texas  has since been released from Federal Incarceration and is currently on Parole/Probation with the Justice Department. While he was in prison a realtor from Circle T Realty was living in his spacious home that looks similar to the one portrayed in the film, “Gone with the Wind.”

 

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected John Tuma’s arguments that a judge erroneously excluded evidence from his 2012 trial about the alleged lack of environmental harm caused by the wastewater dumping.  John Tuma was living in Centerville, Texas, at the time of his sentencing. Tuma was sentenced to 60 months incarceration, 36 months probation

 

“Evidence of environmental harm is not an element of any of the charged offenses nor would the lack of environmental harm absolve Tuma of criminal liability-liability based solely on the act of discharging untreated water,” the panel wrote.

 

U.S. District Judge Tom Stagg sentenced Tuma to five years in prison and ordered him to pay a $100,000 fine. The fine was originally over 1 million dollars. The environmental damage is considered one of the worst in the United States by the EPA. Ironically John Tuma’s online resume reads the following.

An executive and entrepreneur with two decades of experience in the fields of wastewater management, oilfield services, and real estate construction, John Tuma owns and operates several businesses in and around Centerville, Texas. A longtime resident of Texas, he has been a fixture of the regional wastewater management industry since 1993, founding three highly successful companies in this sector. Known for his innovation, John Tuma co-invented a wide range of devices for implementation in the wastewater management, oil, and gas industries with more than 20 U.S. patents granted for his work in the early-to-mid 1990s.

 

Tuma was the general manager and former owner of Arkla Disposal Services Inc. The company’s Shreveport facility received wastewater that was supposed to pass through filtration systems before being discharged.

 

Employees testified that Tuma “ran a sham plant,” instructing them to illegally discharge the water, bypass monitoring systems and check the river for pollution, the 5th Circuit panel wrote.

 

Two employees reported the alleged misconduct to the company that purchased the facility from Tuma in 2006. The Environmental Protection Agency opened an investigation after the company reported the allegations.

 

US v. John Emerson Tuma – Day Four – Morning Session

The morning session started off rather slowly. The government called three employees of Republic Contractors to talk about the installation of the various outfall lines at the Red River. First up was Curtis Wright, the president of RCI. He testified generally as to RCI records and some of the work performed at the facility. He confirmed the various work done at the outfall. He testified that all of the work was done at the request of John Tuma. He was shown various photographs of the outfall configurations and confirmed that it was RCI work.

 

The last witness of the morning was Cody Tuma. The government began by reviewing his plea agreement with him, essentially no promises were made and he is still subject to sentencing. Cody Tuma then testified that in November 2011, as a result of finding Christ, he wanted to do the right thing, but struggled mightily with what to do.

 

He testified that he went to speak to John Tuma who was not receptive. He testified that he asked his father if he, John Tuma, ever thought about doing the right thing. Cody Tuma testified that he told his father he was “tired of living this way.” John Tuma’s response was, according to Cody Tuma: We are too far into this to turn back.” After getting no positive reception, Cody Tuma then talked to his attorney and then in turn his attorney came to the government to seek a plea bargain. When asked why he was there testifying, he stated: I just want to do the right thing.” He testified that in finding Christ he was learning how to be a man, a father and a husband.

 

Cody Tuma was 22 when he started working at the plant (sometime in late 2004, early 2005). He first started as just a plant worker but was then promoted to night shift supervisor. He testified that the plant started getting busy when the facility began accepting E&P waste for treatment. The volume of truck varied from a couple of trucks to over 100 a night. Bonuses were paid by John Tuma when records  were set. The night shift usually accepted E&P waste only. He supervised up to seven employees on his crew.

 

Mr. Tuma testified that Wayne Mallet was the plant manager but his father, John Tuma, was in charge and made all of the decisions. Cody Tuma testified that while the waste water was supposed to be treated, it was usually not treated. Trucks would come in and be off-loaded to various tanks. He testified that essentially, a truck could be unloaded to any tank in the facility. He testified that there were a lot of pipes and there was no restriction on where waste water could be sent in the facilty. He also testified that any tank could be lined up for discharge to either the City POTW or the Red River. Cody Tuma testified that the piping changed over time and that John Tuma made all of the decisions on the changes. When asked why the changes were necessary, Cody Tuma testified it was to get around a meter, a sampling point or just to get a new discharge point.

 

Cody Tuma testified that the treatment process did not work and it slowed the movement of water through the facility. Cody Tuma testified to concocting a recipe of water to be placed in Tank B1 for Ana-Lab to sample as part of the ruse. This was done on the orders of John Tuma. Cody Tuma also testified to the various manipulations to bypass flow meters and compositors. This was done by unplugging meters, bypassing them with piping or just disengaging them. Compositors were emptied and filled with clean water. This was all done on the orders of John Tuma. Cody Tuma testified that he discharged untreated water to either the City POTW or the Red River every day. Cody Tuma testified as to watching for City employees and what would be done if City employees showed up to sample. Towards the end when the monitoring equipment became more onerous, the facility stopped discharges until a work-around could be found.

 

When Ana-Lab installed a new compositor, Cody Tuma testified that he would empty the water that had been collected in the compositor and fill it with clean water. He also testified that John Tuma would periodically have the facility design samples to fail analysis for permit parameters to make things more realistic. Cody Tuma testified that the facility leased tanks at the port for additional storage capacity. There was only one line to and from the facility.

 

As to the USEPA inspection in June 2007, Cody Tuma testified that when the USEPA took a sample of the water from the port tanks, it was dirty. Cody Tuma told Ken AuBuchon, the USEPA inspector, that he was going to the port to check it out. On the way there, he called his father, John Tuma, who told him to open all of the valves at the port tanks and tell Ken AuBuchon that the tanks got contaminated by someone tampering with the valves. He testified that when he came back to the facility, he put on an act for Ken AuBuchon, that he was angry about the valves being left open. He also testified to assisting Wayne Mallet in faking the pump cavitation. He was asked by Ken AuBuchon to provide a written statement regarding the pump cavitation, which he did. He now admits that it was all a lie. Cody Tuma also stated that he lied to CCS’s investigator. He said he had talked to John Tuma about it and John Tuma told him to lie. He also testified that John Tuma coached him to lie in his deposition given in the civil lawsuit John Tuma filed against CCS.

 

Cody Tuma acknowledged that he had just admitted to perjury on the stand as to his deposition and that he could be charged in Harris County, Texas with perjury. When asked why the jury should believe him, he stated that he had made a lot af wrong choices in his life and he was now trying to be a better man, father and husband. He testified that he is telling the truth today.

 

In 2013 the City of Shreveport implemented a  $342 Million Sewer System Upgrade

When wastewater systems overflow, they can release raw sewage and other pollutants, threatening water quality and potentially contributing to disease outbreaks.  To come into compliance with the CWA, the city estimates it will spend approximately $342 million over the next 12 years in order to improve the sewer system’s condition.  While the city upgrades the system, it will also implement a program for capacity management, operation, and maintenance to help reduce sanitary sewer overflows. Numerous water contamination projects are still in operation in the Shreveport and Bossier City area.

 

Both John and Cody Tuma were charged as follows:

1 count – conspiracy {18 U.S.C. 371}

3 counts – violating the CWA {33 U.S.C. 1311; 33 U.S.C. 1319(c)(2)(A) – knowing violation}

1 count – Obstruction {18 U.S.C. 1505}

Cody Tuma pled guilty to all 6 counts.

CITATION: 18 U.S.C. 1505, 18 USC 371, 33 U.S.C. 1319(c)(1)(A), 33USC1311(a)

March 21, 2012

John Tuma was convicted by a federal jury for discharging untreated wastewater directly into the Red River without a permit, discharging untreated wastewater into the city of Shreveport sewer system in violation of its permit and obstructing an EPA inspection.

June 20, 2012

Cody Tuma was sentenced to 60 months probation. No fine was imposed.

December 5, 2012

John Tuma was sentenced to 60 months incarceration, 36 months probation and was ordered to pay a $100,000 criminal fine.

STATUTE:

Clean Water Act (CWA)

Title 18 U.S. Criminal Code (TITLE 18)

 

 

So, Is Shreveport’s water safe to drink?  The EPA is charged with enforcing the standards of the act and has strict monitoring procedures that must be followed by all water systems.  Except in extremely rare cases, you can rest assured that the water that comes out of your tap won’t kill you, or make you sick…..does anyone actually believe this?

 

But that doesn’t mean it has to taste good.  There aren’t really any standards set for that, which is evidenced by the taste of the City of Shreveport’s water.  I can safely say that Shreveport has the worst tasting water in the country, bar none. Even the mineral-laced water of West Texas doesn’t taste as bad as the dreck that came out of the faucet while there.  Some say it tastes like dirt, and I don’t disagree.

Certain areas in Caddo Parish report high levels of lead poisoning, according to a recent online news report.  Lead can be present in everything from house paint to the water supply, and ingesting lead can cause permanent health damage — especially for children.

Dr. Steve Bienvenu, director of the Children’s Clinic at University Health in Shreveport, said the clinic sees children with lead poisoning on a weekly basis.

“We see this every day, basically. We’ve been dealing with lead poisoning for decades,” Bienvenu said. “Awareness is critical. The only way to prevent damage is to avoid ingestion in the first place.”

Two out of seven children tested in 2014 were positive for lead poisoning in Caddo Parish, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In 2012, Caddo tested six children, all of whom tested positive for lead poisoning.  In 2006, two of 339 children tested positive for lead poisoning. Caddo also reported data for 2005 and 2007, where no children were reported positive for lead poisoning out of  a 134 and 311 sample size population, respectively.

Thanks John!

 

 

 

Today, Mr. Tuma oversees all aspects of operations at his company in Leon County Texas, managing six employees and generating in excess of $600,000 in annual revenues. Among his numerous professional activities, John Tuma possesses multiple commercial disposal wells in Texas, runs an oilfield service company, and manages various commercial properties for KTR Management LLP. In addition, Mr. Tuma lost several properties or, as reported to us he basically hid the properties in other peoples names to avoid losing them. What about the work he did for the water company in Leon County?  He once boasted of  Crooked Tree Ranch, a popular and authentic hunting experience in Sonora, Texas.

At Crooked Tree Ranch, John Tuma bred and raised whitetail deer and other exotic animals, replenishing the stock each season. Basically a place for canned hunts and other things…