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Former New Brunswick Water System Operator Pleads Guilty To Falsifying Water Test Results

Edward-ORourke

Edward O’Rourke. Photo: NJ Attorney General’s Office.

The former licensed operator of the New Brunswick water system – from which the township buys drinking water – plead guilty Dec. 17 to lying “hundreds of times” about the results of water tests.

Edward O’Rourke, 60, of Brick, plead guilty to 2nd Degree Corruption of Public resources and 3rd Degree violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act, according to a press release from the state Attorney General’s Office.

The state contended that O’Rourke, between April 2010 and December 2012, “repeatedly and intentionally submitted false water purity testing data to the (state Department of Environmental Protection) in order to hide the fact that he had failed to properly oversee the testing of drinking water samples,” according to the release.

The investigation revealed that during the relevant period, O’Rourke submitted reports on more than 200 samples that contained falsified data capable of invalidating the entire result, the release said.

The investigation did not show that water samples ever tested positive for coliform bacteria, the release said, but “O’Rourke’s failure to correctly test and accurately report water purity information to the DEP meant that regulators were not able to determine whether there were any pathogens in the water pumped to the public during the relevant 33-month period.”

“O’Rourke had a duty to oversee these two water systems in a manner that ensured the quality and safety of the drinking water supplied to tens of thousands of residents, and he not only failed to perform proper testing, he lied about the tests that were performed to cover up his failure,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said in the release. “O’Rourke callously disregarded the health consequences that might have flowed from his failure to obey the law and accurately monitor the water supplied to these communities.”

“If O’Rourke had simply been honest from the start about any failure to comply with the requirements for water purity testing, he would not be facing such stern punishment,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said in the release. “But he lied hundreds of times. Prison is the right penalty for such flagrant dishonesty, given that we’re talking about regulations designed to protect the public’s health.”

The investigation revealed that “O’Rourke and his staff were not consistently following proper testing protocols and therefore they frequently did not have samples and data that were compliant with federal and state testing requirements,” the release said. “Rather that disclosing that the testing data was not compliant, O’Rourke falsified data and information in order to appear to be compliant.”

When he is sentenced on Feb. 8, the state will recommend that O’Rourke receive three years in state prison for each of the charges, to be run concurrently, according to the release.

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