According to the City of Crescent, positive tests for E. coli in city water over the past week are not related to claims the city dumped treated sewage water into a nearby creek.
In a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, Trent Nere claims he was instructed to defy Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality guidance and dump treated sewage water into the creek.
Crescent City Manager Ryan Wallace, who is named in the lawsuit, said, “There was a fella that worked here that was let go, and sometime after that, he actually said that he was unfairly treated as a result of blowing the whistle.”
Wallace said the city is allowed to spray treated water on a nearby field, however, by the time winter came, the lagoon ponds were too full and no more water could be let out by spraying.
"The wastewater was mere days or weeks away from discharging or bypassing the lagoon system," Nere said in the lawsuit.
That’s when the former employee said the city manager asked him to check with DEQ to see if they could drain the wastewater into a creek.
The state denied Crescent’s request to drain the water, however, Nere alleges the city manager told him to do it anyway.
According to the lawsuit, Wallace directed “Nere to 'open the lagoons' to drain the wastewater into the creek because they had done the same before."
Wallace said during his 10 years with the city, they have never discharged water into the creek, much less without DEQ approval.
“Absolutely not. We work closely with DEQ. That would be a violation of DEQ regulations and EPA regulations.”
Then Nere said he refused to comply and was told by the state he could face criminal and civil charges if he drained the lagoon into the creek.
Following a December DEQ inspection of the wastewater facility, the agency instructed Crescent to permanently close the valve to discharge the waste.
Nere said the city manager angerly approached him, saying “Those DEQ guys don't know what the (expletive) they were talking about."
The former employee said he was told “I can never trust you again to make the calls that need to be made to benefit the city," and was fired.
Last week, the city said during planned upgrades the chlorine system did not get sealed properly, allowing E. coli into the system.
Wallace said a retune water test revealed the contaminant and local businesses and schools were notified. The DEQ issued a boil order for the city.
Wallace said the issue was quickly fixed and the lines were flushed to eliminate any contaminants that may have gotten by between the time the system was installed and when the test came back positive.
The DEQ rescinded the boil order Monday.