Originally created 05/08/99

Trevino joins in lawsuit



A federal lawsuit claiming the city of Augusta poisoned pastureland and dairy cattle with contaminated sewage sludge has a new plaintiff: pro golfer Lee Trevino.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Mr. Trevino is an investor in the R.A. McElmurray & Sons dairy, whose owners sued Augusta last fall seeking millions in damages for herd and crop damage.

Mr. Trevino, who is also a family friend of the McElmurrays, "has suffered substantial financial losses" because of increased herd mortality and poor crop production, which the family blames on toxic sludge.

The sludge, a byproduct of sewage treatment at the city's Messerly Wastewater plant in Richmond County, has been scattered onto pasturelands for almost 20 years for use as a free fertilizer.

A second farm -- Keysville-based Boyceland Dairy -- has a similar federal lawsuit pending against the city, which has denied responsibility for the farmers' problems.

More than 93 million gallons of the sludge were applied to the two dairies before the practice was halted. About 30 sites in Richmond, Burke and Jefferson counties still receive sludge but have reported no problems.

A spokesman for Mr. Trevino, Chuck Rubin of Assured Management Co. in Westwood, Kan., said the golf pro's decision to enter the litigation stemmed from financial losses.

"He invested money in the dairy operation, and he lost it all," Mr. Rubin said. "The cattle died."

Others added as plaintiffs to the lawsuit -- either as investors or as owners of land leased by the dairies for crop production -- are Dorothy McLeod, James E. Wells and Maydean H. Wells.

Robert Pavey covers environmental issues for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.