Former Chicago Suburb Water Tester Took Shortcuts

A former Forest Park, Ill., employee in charge of testing the village water supply was charged Tuesday with submitting one-source water samples and falsifying results, officials said.

John S. Webb is accused of taking samples from only one tap, rather than from around the village, at the end of 2003. The samples were tested for coliform bacteria, the disease-causing microorganism found in sewage and animal waste.

According to a statement issued by Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan's office, Webb faces up to six years in prison, $15,000 in fines and 1,800 hours of community service if convicted on all six misdemeanor charges.

Webb was paid $60,000 annually and worked for the village of Forest Park as its sole water tester for 30 years. He resigned in February after a police investigation revealed that he was not carrying out his duties, Mayor Anthony Calderone said.

According to Webb's attorney, David Thollander, his client retired after becoming the target of a politically aggravated attack by Forest Park officials, including the mayor.

Village officials turned over the results of their investigation to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which then referred the case to the attorney general's office.

As Forest Park's only certified water tester, Webb's job was to take water samples around the village 15 times each month and submit them to a testing lab in Hillside, Ill.

Instead, officials claim, Webb failed to take the samples from various locations on three occasions between Dec. 15 and Jan. 14.

No water-related illnesses were reported to authorities, and the village has passed all of its water tests since then. Currently, Forest Park does not emply a full-time water tester and instead uses one from neighboring North Riverside.

Calderone claims Webb told the Forest Park police he had been routinely taking testing "shortcuts" in recent years.

"In his words, he got lazy, and he was able to get away with it," Calderone told the Chicago Tribune. "He decided he would just have coffee and doughnuts and kill the time that way."

Webb is scheduled to appear for an arraignment Dec. 7.

Chicago Tribune

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