Former Manager of Milford Water Company Indicted for Allegedly Tampering with Samples of Contaminated Water
Authorities Allege Defendant Tampered With Water Samples to Get Boil Water Order Lifted
Henry Papuga, 61, of Milford, was indicted by a Worcester County Grand Jury on charges of Tampering with Environmental Monitoring Device or Method (6 counts) and Making False Statements (2 counts).
"As manager of the Milford Water Company, the defendant was entrusted with the safety and wellbeing of the people in the community," AG Coakley said. "We allege the defendant tampered with water samples which potentially put the health of thousands at risk."
"Public water systems are expected to accurately collect samples for testing. These samples are essential to the work MassDEP does to ensure water quality and the public's confidence in its drinking water," said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). "Tampering with samples is a serious attack on the integrity of this system. This case shows how seriously we will respond to tampering."
In January 2010, the AG's Office began an investigation after the matter was initially investigated and referred by MassDEP. The indictments stem from an incident in August 2009, when the water supply in the Town of Milford tested positive for E. Coli. A subsequent order by MassDEP required residents to boil the water before consuming or using it. According to MassDEP's requirements, the boil water order could not be lifted until the MWC's testing showed two consecutive rounds of water samples that were free from contamination. Investigators found that Papuga, who was the manager in charge of the water system, was under enormous pressure to get the boil water order lifted as soon as possible. Authorities allege that in his effort to get the boil water order lifted, Papuga tampered with six drinking water samples by adding chlorine to the samples.
Papuga allegedly submitted these tampered samples to a local lab for testing. On two of the forms submitted with the water samples, also known as "chain of custody" forms, authorities allege that Papuga falsely certified the integrity of the samples.
An analyst at the lab began testing the samples for coliform and the samples immediately turned black making it impossible to complete the test. To determine what was in the samples producing this highly unusual result, the lab tested for chlorine. The lab found that the chlorine level was so high that it exceeded the limits of the test. The lab then informed MassDEP that the samples could not be properly analyzed for bacteria because of their unusually high chlorine content. MassDEP and the Strike Force conducted their own investigation, tested the suspicious water samples, and found levels of chlorine in some samples 700 times the acceptable level for drinking water. As a result, the matter was referred to the AG's Office for prosecution.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and investigators and engineers from MassDEP. The Strike Force is overseen by Attorney General Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Kimmell and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. The Strike Force investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm or threaten the state's water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
A Worcester County Grand Jury returned indictments against Papuga on September 21. His arraignment date has not yet been set.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Eloise Lawrence, of AG Coakley's Environmental Crimes Division, and was investigated by officers of the Massachusetts Environmental Police, the Criminal Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, investigators from MassDEP's Central Regional Office in Worcester and MassDEP's Environmental Strike Force.