The operator of Hugo’s water treatment plant will pay nearly $1 million to help small Oklahoma communities upgrade water treatment facilities as part of a settlement of drinking water violations that left thousands of local residents with unsafe water for months, state officials announced.
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said it reached the largest water-quality related settlement in the agency’s 25-year history with London-based Severn Trent Environmental Services Inc.
Under the agreement, the company was fined $25,000 and will make available another $930,000 to help communities improve water and wastewater treatment facilities.
“Today’s action reflects DEQ’s ongoing commitment to work with Hugo and other communities across the state to ensure safe drinking water for our citizens,” DEQ’s Executive Director Scott Thompson said in a statement.
A DEQ investigation into the Hugo Municipal Authority Water Supply treatment facility found numerous violations, including improper monitoring and low chlorination.
The company contested an initial proposed fine of $3.17 million, saying the amount was excessive and unjustified.
“The settlement reflects our desire to find a resolution that would support the efforts of the agency to address critical infrastructure maintenance challenges being faced by many underfunded rural water systems across Oklahoma,” said Severn Trent’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Service Delivery William Mertes.
The company previously announced that they fired the plant manager after an internal investigation determined he “misreported” chlorine data.
Hugo City Manager David Rawls declined to comment on the agreement, saying he needed more time to review it. Rawls said the city still has a contract with Severn Trent to oversee operations of its water and wastewater treatment facilities and lift stations.