PITTSFIELD -- The director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs in Lee is free on personal recognizance following his arraignment on Wednesday for 30 misdemeanors related to the alleged falsification of water testing samples provided to a state agency.
The attorney for William Enser Jr., 63, said his client has no criminal record and that the company, Berkshire Enviro-Labs, had no problems in its 30-year history before these allegations surfaced.
The state Attorney General's Office accuses Enser of backdating reports to make it appear that water samples were tested within a required time frame when they weren't. The reports were then submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Enser was indicted on 15 counts each of knowingly falsifying reports and willfully making false reports to the DEP following the Attorney General's investigation.
On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Sara Farnum of the Environmental Crimes Division cited public health and safety issues in asking the court to impose a number of pretrial conditions on Enser. Those included banning him from having any contact with his clients or being involved in the operation of the company.
Enser's attorney, Jeffrey T. Scrimo, called those conditions "draconian," and argued that restricting his client from acting in any capacity at the company would be more of a public safety risk. Enser is "the only person in the area with the experience and expertise to deal with these water issues," Scrimo said.
Scrimo told the court that more than 300 clients, including many of the towns in Berkshire County, rely on Enser.
According to law enforcement officials, Enser backdated drinking water sample analyses between 2008 and 2010 to "cover up misconduct and feign compliance with environmental laws." The reports in question involved testing water samples for the presence of nitrates and nitrites -- tests that are only reliable if done within 48 hours of the samples being taken.
Scrimo argued that the testing was for nitrates and nitrites, which are only dangerous at "extreme levels" and did not deal with bacterial testing. He cited previous statements by the AG's office indicating the agency did not believe the public was at risk by Enser's alleged actions.
Judge Daniel A. Ford gave Enser less restrictive pretrial conditions, including refraining from personally collecting or testing water samples, among others.
While the company is still operating, the lab has been shut down, said Scrimo. Berkshire Enviro-Labs has a verbal agreement with Premier Laboratory Inc., based in Dayville, Conn., to handle its test loads. The Lee company can still collect the samples, just not test them.
Scrimo said the state Department of Environmental Protection went through thousands of water testing reports and turned up 15 they alleged were falsified. The agency then "double dipped," when it came to the charges against Enser, after it found two similar statutes in order to charge Enser with 30 charges in relation to the 15 reports, according to the lawyer.
Enser is scheduled to be back in court in June for a pretrial hearing.