MASS.--Chemist Charged with Faking Water Data : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Lawrence chemist charged with faking water data

by Andrea Estes Saturday, March 18, 2000

The city of Lawrence's senior chemist fudged data to make it look like he was performing required tests of the city's drinking water, federal prosecutors charged yesterday.

William J. McCarthy, 63, of Lawrence, who recently retired, was accused in an 18-count information of falsifying water quality records. He is expected to plead guilty.

McCarthy, whose job was to make sure the water supply was safe and met federal and state safety records, frequently made up results for four types of tests, including one that counted bacteria.

Residents were never at risk, prosecutors believe, but could have been. Had pollutants gotten into the water, they might not have been detected, they 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,'' said U.S. Attorney Donald Stern.

Regulators want the city's water monitored closely because after it is diverted from the Merrimack River to the treatment plant, it is stored in an uncovered 44-million-gallon reservoir. Nevertheless, McCarthy sometimes failed to test for chlorine and bacteria, prosecutors allege. In addition, prosecutors charge, he didn't perform tests on the weekends, though samples were supposed to be taken seven days a week.

The investigation sparked a study of the water system by state and federal environmental agencies. The Mass. Department of Environmental Protection recently ordered the city to hire a consultant to oversee the filtration plant's operation, upgrade its facilities and enclose the open reservoir. McCarthy faces up to five years' imprisonment and $4.5 million in fines.

His lawyer, Albert Previte, couldn't be reached for comment.

-- (, March 18, 2000

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