President of Lee Water Testing Company Pleads Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Falsifying Drinking Water Reports
Defendant Backdated Drinking Water Analyses and Hid Evidence of Bacterial Contamination
PITTSFIELD - The director of a private water testing laboratory in Lee has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in connection with backdating drinking water sample analyses and for hiding evidence of bacterial contamination, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office announced today.
William Enser, Jr., age 64, of Lee, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in Berkshire Superior Court on charges of Knowingly Falsifying Reports Submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection (29 counts) and Willfully Making False Reports to the Department of Environmental Protection (29 counts).
Enser, formerly a certified public water system operator, was the director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs, Inc. (Enviro-Labs) in Lee. Enviro-Labs is a private Massachusetts company that formerly acted as a certified drinking water lab to provide drinking water testing for private and public water suppliers in the western part of Massachusetts.
After the plea was entered, Superior Court Judge John Agostini sentenced Enser to two years probation. Judge Agostini also imposed conditions that prohibit Enser from seeking any water testing related licenses and from operating another public water testing or operating company. Enser is also barred from participating in the sampling, testing, and analysis of public drinking water samples for any other company. Judge Agostini ordered Enser to publish a public apology in The Berkshire Eagle and to contribute $100,000 to the Massachusetts Natural Resources Damages Trust, which funds projects that protect drinking water in the Commonwealth.
“This defendant neglected his responsibilities to ensure the integrity of the testing and safety of the water supply by cutting corners and then attempting to cover it up,” AG Coakley said. “Through today’s sentence, he will face strict conditions that bar him from doing work with public drinking water. He is also required to take other actions that hold him accountable for his negligence, including contributing to an environmental trust and issuing a public apology to the community.”
“Labs that are certified to test drinking water samples are held to a very strict standard in order to ensure that the health and safety of the public is never compromised,” said Commissioner David W. Cash of the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “This lab director purposely skewed the data and undermined the strict testing protocols. But because of the regulatory safeguards, and the investigative capacity of the staff within the Environmental Strike Force and MassDEP, this fraudulent activity was revealed and the operator brought to justice.”
Cash added that all of the affected drinking water facilities were immediately contacted by MassDEP and MassDEP worked closely with all impacted facilities to ensure an uninterrupted delivery of safe drinking water, and to provide the continuous collection and analyses of water samples, as required by applicable law. MassDEP continues to work with those facilities to ensure compliance with all safe drinking water standards.
In September 2012, the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force began an investigation after MassDEP staff from the Wall Experiment Station conducted an audit 1 revealed suspicious data being generated at Enviro-Labs. As a result of the investigation, Enser’s company was de-certified and could no longer provide drinking water testing for private and public water suppliers in the western part of Massachusetts. Enser also subsequently lost his licenses to operate drinking water supplies.
In January 2013, Enser was indicted and arraigned in connection with backdating drinking water sample analyses to feign compliance with environmental laws. 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.
Subsequent to his arraignment, authorities received additional information indicating that Enser had also hidden evidence of bacterial contamination related to samples he had collected between October 2012 and February 2013. Investigation revealed that some of these samples tested positive for bacteria, but Enser did not report it to MassDEP. Instead, Enser would request each sampler to take several separate samples at each water supply and choose the sample that passed inspection to send to MassDEP, thereby obscuring the fact that some samples had tested positive for bacteria.
In one such instance in October 2012, Enser directed an employee to report a “passing” drinking water sample as coming from a public water supply when, in fact, the sample had come from the tap in the Enviro-Labs’ office. Enser was arraigned on those additional charges in April 2013.
Today’s result stems from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, and MassDEP Commissioner Cash. 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.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, and Assistant Attorney General Sara Shannon, of AG Coakley's Environmental Crimes Division, with assistance from the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and MassDEP Strike Force Director Pamela Talbot and investigators Tim Dame and Joel Rees. MassDEP staff in the Western Regional Office and in the state laboratory in Lawrence also worked to corroborate the technical findings, ensure the continued delivery of certified lab services to affected water suppliers, and to test drinking water samples in communities that may have been impacted by Enser’s actions.
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