Ex Supervisor Faces Prison, $250,000 Fine for Falsifying Drinking Water Reports

Christopher Neil Gauntt, the former supervisor of the Fort Gibson Water Treatment Plant in Fort Gibson, Okla., pleaded guilty April 29 in U.S. District Court in Muskogee, Okla., to falsifying a monthly operating report that certified the safety of drinking water from the facility, the Justice Department announced.

Gauntt pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with a felony count of making a false statement. He admitted that on or about June 12, 2008, he submitted a monthly operating report containing false data for drinking water that is provided to residents of Fort Gibson as well as residents of Muskogee Rural Water Districts 4 and 7, Cherokee Water drinking water systems, and the water systems for Corral Creek Subdivision and Ozark Water Inc.

Under the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, which is administered and enforced by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA, the Fort Gibson water treatment plant must provide drinking water that meets standards to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption. Two of the standards that must be met include turbidity and chlorine. If turbidity, the measure of clarity of drinking water, or chlorine levels are not within levels required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, there is a potential risk that the water could retain microorganisms that carry waterborne diseases.

Gauntt admitted that he recorded levels in the monthly operating report submitted to Oklahoma DEQ that indicated the turbidity and chlorine levels were in compliance with required standards when he knew in fact they were not. In August 2008, Fort Gibson had sent a notice concerning this to residents who receive their drinking water from the Fort Gibson water treatment plant. Fort Gibson did not receive any information that anyone experienced any ill effects from the drinking water during that time period.

"All citizens should be confident that they are receiving drinking water that is safe for consumption. Those who knowingly compromise the regulatory protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act will be prosecuted," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The prosecution in this case demonstrates that the government vigorously acts to ensure all of our citizens have good drinking water and the Safe Drinking Water Act's requirements are being complied with."

Warren Amburn, special agent in charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Dallas, echoed that sentiment: "Accurate information is essential for the federal government and the State of Oklahoma to assure good drinking water for the public," he said. "Individuals who submit false reports or bogus data undermine those efforts and they will be vigorously pursued."

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson noted, "Falsifying information about the safety of the drinking water supply is dangerous. Ensuring an adequate supply of safe, clean water is an important public health issue. We will continue to work with our partners at all levels of government to protect the people of this state and the water they drink."

As a result of the felony conviction, Gauntt could be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $250,000.

The case was prosecuted by the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section and was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation and the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office. For questions regarding the case, contact DOJ's Environmental Crimes Section at (202) 305-0321.

Download Center

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • COVID Return-to-Work Checklist, Fall 2021

    Use this checklist as an aid to help your organization return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and healthy manner.

  • SDS Buyer's Guide

    Learn to make informed decisions while searching for SDS Management Software.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Industry Safe

Featured Whitepapers

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - November December 2021

    November December 2021

    Featuring:

    • GAS DETECTION
      How to Streamline Gas Detector Maintenance
    • OSHA TOP 10
      OSHA's Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards for FY 2021
    • PROTECTIVE APPAREL
      How PPE Can Help You Deal with the Harsh Condition of Winter
    • HEARING PROTECTION
      Tackling Hearing Protection in the Workplace
    View This Issue