Senior Chemist Charged With False Statements

March 20, 2000
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.

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