Water Plant Chemist Sentenced for Fabricating Test Results

August 16, 2000

Federal Court has sentenced a retired senior chemist for the City of Lawrence, Mass., public drinking water system on 18 separate counts of filing falsified records regarding the quality of drinking water distributed to Lawrence residents.


William J. McCarthy, 64, will receive two years of probation, the first six months of which will be in home confinement. In addition to probation, U.S. District Court Judge Reginald Lindsay ordered McCarthy to pay a fine of $13,500 and a special assessment of $1,800.


McCarthy had pleaded guilty in April that over the course of more than three years, he repeatedly fabricated drinking water quality results for tests he was required to perform on water treated at the Lawrence facility.


Before retiring recently, McCarthy had worked at the Lawrence filtration plant for 35 years. As senior chemist, he supervised all water quality testing and completed and filed test results with government regulators who oversaw the operation of the plant. The plant treats water drawn from the Merrimack River before it is distributed to the more than 60,000 residents of Lawrence.


McCarthy admitted that he regularly fabricated results of four different types of drinking water quality tests and reported them to regulators. There is no indication of physical harm to Lawrence residents as a result of the fabricated test results.


"Mr. McCarthy broke the public trust that each one of us depends on every day to make sure that the water our families drink is safe," said U.S Attorney David Stern. "This office will continue to investigate and prosecute any individual who compromises the integrity of the water supply or puts the public at risk."


U.S. Attorney Stern, commenting on today's proceeding, stated that: "Mr. McCarthy broke the public trust that each one of us depends on every day to make sure that the water our families drink is safe. This office will continue to investigate and prosecute any individual who compromises the integrity of the water supply or puts the public at risk."


A plant operator who worked for McCarthy alerted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the problems in 1999. The case was investigated by agents of the EPA's Criminal Investigations Division.


In addition to McCarthy's conviction, the criminal investigation also triggered a comprehensive evaluation of the safety of the Lawrence drinking water system, resulting in the issuance of two administrative orders by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.


The City of Lawrence was required to hire an outside consultant to oversee operation of the plant, commence an upgrade of its failing facilities, and enclose its open reservoir.


(Source: PR Newswire)

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