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41 Count Indictment in Mississippi Wetlands Contamination Case
Release Date: 06/16/2004
Contact Information: Suzanne Ackerman, 202-564-7819 / firstname.lastname@example.org
(06/16/04) On June 10, Robert Lucas, Jr. of Lucedale, Miss.; Robbie Lucas Wrigley of Ocean Springs, Miss.; and M.E. Thompson, Jr., of D'Iberville, Miss. were indicted for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act by illegally constructing septic systems and for dredging and filling wetland areas in a 2620-acre home site development in Vancleave, Miss. Additionally, two of Lucas' corporations, Big Hill Acres, Inc. and Consolidated Investments, Inc., also were charged with conspiracy, mail fraud and aiding and abetting one another in this case. The charges allege that the defendants misrepresented the habitability of the lots and installed septic systems in saturated wetland soils at the Big Hill Acres development, despite warnings from the Mississippi Department of Health that they were creating a public health threat. The defendants also allegedly ignored numerous warnings and cease and desist orders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. EPA. Both agencies advised the defendants that the deteriorating systems could possibly contaminate the local drinking water aquifer. Failing septic systems are one of the primary sources of ground water contamination, and a factor in the contamination of drinking water sources, possibly causing viral and bacterial illnesses. The case was investigated by the Jacksonville, Miss. Area Office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service and U.S. EPA Region IV office in Atlanta. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Gulfport and the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C. The filing of federal charges is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.