A former water operator who was tasked with monitoring residents’ drinking water for potential contamination has admitted that he lied about taking samples.
Caleb Hartzog pleaded guilty to Making a False Statement to a Government Agency, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The former town of Branchville employee faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine but will almost certainly receive less than that for cooperating and pleading guilty.
Prosecutors accused Hartzog of forging forms which certified that he had collected drinking water samples from within at least ten residential homes. Several residents claimed no one had been taking water samples from their homes for some time, if ever. The samples were supposed to be analyzed for potential lead and copper contamination.
Branchville has struggled to keep its water system free of contaminants. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control fined the town and placed it under a consent order in 2016 after levels of fecal coliform exceeded the federal limit. Previous tests had also found lead and copper in the water.
Court documents show the falsified signatures came from 2014 forms. The Justice Department said follow-up investigations later found no contamination in Branchville’s water supply.