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Alberta town fined $10K, former operator given house arrest over falsifying water samples

The Town of Bow Island’s submitted 2015 and 2016 annual report lead test results were identical to its 2014 test results, Alberta officials determined during an investigation that revealed records were falsified. Photo credit: luchschenF, AdobeStock.

After facing a series of water-related charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Town of Bow Island, Alberta, and a former employee of the municipality, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, according to an announcement from Alberta Environment and Parks.

An agreed statement of facts explains that between January 2014 and December 2017, a number of mandatory lead and chlorine residual samples were not taken within the town of just over 2,000 residents, and some old samples were made to appear as new results.

As a result, the Town’s officials pleaded guilty to failing to immediately report structural or equipment malfunctions in the waterworks system, an offence under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The Town was fined $10,000 and placed under a 2.5-year probation order that will closely monitor the Town’s compliance with legislated monitoring and reporting requirements.

The Town’s former employee, Ryan Jeffery Sanderson, pleaded guilty to one count of providing false or misleading information, which is also an offence under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Sanderson was sentenced to six months of house arrest, plus two years of probation.

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The town’s drinking water is obtained from a treatment facility and distributed to the residents. Operators of a water distribution system are required to report water main breaks and undertake special steps to ensure no contamination of the water distribution system.

When a new operator began working for Bow Island in December 2017, they noticed that a number of chlorine residual samples had not been taken and reached out to the province out of concern. An investigation determined that far more tests than the new operator realized had not been submitted to the province by the previous operator. In total, some 132 samples failed to be submitted over three years.

Notably, chlorine sampling results appeared to have been copied from prior months and passed off as the results for later months. Additionally, the 2015 and 2016 annual report lead test results were identical to the 2014 test results, the province found.

“On January 19, 2018, the former operator confessed to the new operator and the public works manager that he had falsified municipal lead reports,” explains the case’s statement of facts. “The former operator was suspended for contravening the Code of Practice.”

The town currently has a licensed operator with 10 years of experience, and additional staff are receiving continuous and ongoing training in water distribution. Standard Operating Procedures have been updated in consultation with Alberta Environment and Parks, officials noted in a statement.

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