Dec 28, 2000

Senior Chemist Charged With False Statements

The recently retired senior chemist for the City of Lawrence, Mass. public
drinking water system was charged today in federal court with falsifying records
regarding the quality of drinking water provided to Lawrence residents
United States Attorney Donald K. Stern and T. Craig Carlton, Assistant
Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Area Office of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division ("EPA-CID"),
announced that William J. McCarthy was named as a defendant in an eighteen-count
information. The information alleges that over the course of more than three
years, McCarthy repeatedly fabricated drinking water quality results for tests
he was required to perform on water treated at the Lawrence facility.
According to the information, for over 35 years, until 1999, McCarthy was
employed at Lawrence's drinking water filtration plant. During the 1990's,
McCarthy was the Senior Chemist at the filtration plant, responsible for
ensuring that the drinking water met federal and state safety standards.
McCarthy supervised all water quality testing at the plant, the information
alleges, and was responsible for completing and filing test results with the
regulators who oversaw the operation of the Lawrence filtration plant. The plant
treats water drawn from the Merrimack River before it is distributed to the more
than 60,000 residents of Lawrence.
U.S. Attorney Stern said, "This prosecution is aimed at enforcing the
integrity of a system each one of us depends on every day to ensure the quality
of our drinking water. If a public employee submits phony water quality results,
it undermines one of the important ways to protect the public health."
The information alleges that McCarthy regularly fabricated results of
four separate types of drinking water quality tests, and reported them as fact
to regulators. There is no indication that Lawrence residents were harmed as a
result of the criminal conduct alleged in the information or that the fabricated
test resulted in contaminated water being distributed into the water supply.
ASAC Carlton at the EPA-CID said, "Providing safe, clean water is one of
the paramount responsibilities of municipal government and its employees.
Mr. McCarthy violated the public trust time and again. It is critical for
all public servants to know that if they abuse their positions of trust, whether
it be for personal gain or indifference to the laws which bind them, they face
criminal prosecution."
The criminal investigation also triggered a comprehensive evaluation of the
safety of the Lawrence drinking water system by state and federal environmental
regulators. That evaluation resulted in the recent issuance of two
administrative orders by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental
Protection. These orders describe a broad array of violations at the Lawrence
water treatment facility. Under these orders, Lawrence must hire an outside
consultant to oversee operation of the plant, start an upgrade of its failing
facilities, and enclose its open reservoir.
If convicted, McCarthy, faces up to 5 years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine
on each count of this information. The case was investigated by agents of the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigations Division and is
being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy of Stern's Economic
Crimes Unit and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. McNeil of Stern's Major
Crimes Unit.