Water operator failed to monitor, lied about it

By Patsy R. Brumfield and Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

CALHOUN COUNTY – The daughter of a Mississippi Rural Water Association trainer faces up to eight years in prison after she pleaded guilty Thursday for failing to monitor water quality at several Northeast Mississippi systems and then lying about it.
Mari Leigh Childs, 38, with S amp& L Aqua Operations, appeared before U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. in Greenville to admit her guilt to two counts.
She’s the daughter of Larry Bratton, a certified wastewater training technician for the MSRWA. Association Chief Executive Officer Kirby Mayfield said Childs has no connection to his agency.
Her plea deal with federal prosecutors shows she failed to maintain records, make reports, maintain monitoring equipment and sample effluents as required by the Clean Water Act.
And when Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Department of Health began asking questions, she falsified lab reports and log books to try and cover up her errors.
Childs and her husband, Shane, are private wastewater and drinking water operators doing business as S amp& L Aqua. They operated publicly owned treatment works and public water supplies for East Leflore County, the town of Coldwater, Slate Springs Water Association, the town of Vardaman and Macedonia Water Association. They also operated treatment works for the town of Maben, Calhoun County Jail and Calhoun County Courthouse. And they operated water for Young’s Water Supply District and Crestfield Water Association.
The contract with East Leflore County included the Beulah, Long Acres, Chapman North, Chapman South and Rising Sun subdivisions, as well as the Viking Specialty Products system.
Child’s husband was cleared of wrongdoing.
But she faces a maximum possible sentence of three years and a $250,000 fine for failing to keep records and monitor the water. And she faces a possible maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine for creating a bogus paper trail and lying about it.
Childs pleaded guilty to an “information,” which is a direct charge by prosecutors, rather than an indictment, which comes through a grand jury.
The information noted that her unlawful acts occurred from about Feb. 28, 2006, until Feb. 25, 2009.
She will not be sentenced until completion of a U.S. Probation Service report to guide Pepper in deciding her punishment.
Until then, she remains free on a personal recognizance bond.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com