Director of Lee Water Testing Lab Arraigned in Connection with Falsifying Drinking Water Reports
Authorities Allege Defendant Backdated Drinking Water Analyses in Attempt to Cover-Up Misconduct
PITTSFIELD - The director of a private water testing laboratory in Lee has been arraigned in connection with backdating drinking water sample analyses to cover-up misconduct and feign compliance with environmental laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office announced today.
William Enser, Jr., age 63, of Lee, was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday on charges of Knowingly Falsifying Reports Submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection (15 counts) and Willfully Making False Reports to the Department of Environmental Protection (15 counts). At the arraignment, Enser pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on personal recognizance with the conditions that he be prohibited from serving as a drinking water system operator or obtaining or otherwise handling drinking water samples and records, and that he be prohibited from conducting any drinking water testing. Berkshire Superior Court Judge Daniel Ford presided over the arraignment.
In September 2012, the AG's Office began an investigation after the matter was initially investigated and referred by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Enser was the director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs, Inc. (Enviro-Labs) in Lee. Enviro-Labs is a private Massachusetts company that previously acted as a certified drinking water lab to provide drinking water testing for private and public water suppliers in the western part of Massachusetts.
Authorities allege that at times between 2008 and 2012, Enser falsified the dates of drinking water sample analyses on reports submitted to the MassDEP in an attempt to make it appear that the analyses had been completed within the required holding time for those substances, when in fact, they had not. The analyses were being run for the presence of nitrates and nitrites, substances that can contaminate drinking water. The maximum sample holding time, or the time from sample collection to sample analysis, for these kinds of samples is 48 hours. After 48 hours, the lab analysis is not considered reliable.
Investigation revealed that the dates submitted to the MassDEP differed from those found on the chromatogram, a chart printed from the instrument used to analyze the samples, in an alleged attempt to feign compliance with state environmental laws.
MassDEP conducted additional analysis to determine if the falsification of the data put the public at risk. Based on the prompt closing of the lab, MassDEP’s own additional sampling and close review of the data concerning nitrates and nitrites, the agency does not believe that the water that was the subject of the back-dated samples put the public at risk.
These charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Kimmell, and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. The Strike Force comprises prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
A Berkshire County Grand Jury returned indictments against Enser on January 16. He was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges. Enser is due back in court on June 19 for a pre-trial hearing.
In September 2012, MassDEP’s Wall Experiment Station Lab Certification Office, which certifies and audits these kinds of labs, revoked the certification of Enviro-Labs that allowed them to analyze water samples as a result of falsification of data and engaging in deceptive practices. The laboratory has not been conducting analysis on water samples since that time.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, and Assistant Attorney General Sara Farnum, of AG Coakley's Environmental Crimes Division, with assistance from the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and the MassDEP Strike Force Director Pamela Talbot and investigators Tim Dame and Joel Rees. MassDEP staff also worked to corroborate the technical findings and to ensure the continued delivery of certified lab services to affected water suppliers. That staff is Marielle Stone, Western Regional Office Director Michael Gorski and Brian Harrington, Jim Gibbs, Deirdre Cabral and Doug Paine. MassDEP lab staff, Anne Marie Allen, John Bardzik and Lisa Touet provided valuable assistance with the lab audit and inspections.