The Virginia attorney general's office has asked a Prince William County Circuit Court judge to place Bull Run Mountain Waterworks, a privately owned water system under criticism for frequent disruptions of service, under a trustee or require the firm to comply with state regulations, officials said yesterday.

The state's lawsuit was filed Thursday in Circuit Court, four days after two water pumps serving Bull Run Mountain Estates failed, leaving nearly 300 families without water for about three days.

The suit asks the court to force Paul Baugher, owner of the waterworks, to operate under guidelines set forth by the state Board of Health or allow a court-named trustee to take control of his company's assets and operate the water system, said Assistant Attorney General John Butcher. A hearing has been scheduled for July 8.

The suit, filed on behalf of the state health commissioner, alleges that Bull Run Mountain Waterworks is frequently inoperable, that its customers have been without service for up to 48 hours at a time, and that their water is sometimes discolored, Butcher said.

"The corporation is in unstable financial condition, unable to account for funds and incapable of managing its affairs in conformity with existing regulations," said Butcher, reading from the suit.

In response, Baugher said: "It's supposed to be my fault that lightning hit one of the pumps and the other just broke? If it is something I have done wrong, then I would take responsibility for it, but not for something I have no control over. I know I haven't done anything wrong. I have done the best I could with what I have."

Baugher said earlier that under normal conditions the system works properly, but problems occur when residents fill their pools or operate lawn sprinkler systems. He also has said that the county is attempting to buy his water system for less than he believes it is worth.

County officials said that no decision had been made to buy the system, but that they are studying the feasibility of improving service with an eye toward buying the waterworks.

On Wednesday the Virginia Department of Health issued an emergency order requiring Baugher to restore adequate water pressure to residents of the subdivision, in northern Prince William County, or allow the county to do so. The county supplied two new pumps, Assistant County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac said, and normal water flow was restored.