Director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs faces more charges related to water tests
Jan. 24, 2013
Sept. 23, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- The director of Berkshire Enviro-Labs, who has been charged with 30 misdemeanors for allegedly falsifying water-testing reports, has pleaded not guilty to more than two dozen additional charges for similar offenses, some of which occurred after his original arraignment in January, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.
William Enser Jr., 63, of Lee, appeared this week in Berkshire Superior Court before Judge Daniel A. Ford and pleaded not guilty to 28 misdemeanors -- 14 counts each of knowingly falsifying reports submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection and willfully making false reports to the Department of Environmental Protection.
The DEP is actively monitoring the sites in question and reports systems are in place to ensure safe drinking water at the affected locations, which include schools and restaurants.
"He has continued to violate the law," Assistant Attorney General Andrew Rainer, chief of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force, told the judge.
According to the state AG's office, between October 2012 and February 2013, Enser's company collected water samples from three schools, two inns and a restaurant, among other sites, that tested positive for the presence of bacteria. Instead of reporting this to the state DEP, Enser allegedly sent reports indicating the samples were clean.
In some cases, Enser would request his employees take several separate samples at each water supply, and if one test did pass, he would choose that one to send to the DEP, the AG's office said. In October 2012, Enser directed an employee to mis-report that a sample that came from the tap in the Enviro-Labs' office as having been collected from a public water supply, the AG's office alleges.
According to Rainer, Enser failed to report a water sample taken in February that tested positive for the presence of E. coli, a "potentially lethal" contaminant.
"Instead he submitted a different report that showed no contamination," said Rainer.
The sample was collected from Uncle Larry's Tavern in Becket, according to the DEP. When it was discovered, the agency issued a "boil water alert," which instructs people to boil water used for human consumption or to use bottled water. The alert is still in place, according to the DEP website.
Enser's attorney, Jeffrey T. Scrimo, said the public was never at risk. The sample the state alleges contained E. coli was taken from raw water before it entered a chlorination system and before it would have been consumed.
Most of the allegedly contaminated water tested positive for the presence of "standard total coliform," said Scrimo, and not E. coli.
Standard total coliform are a variety of bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, are present in sewage, and are considered "an indicator organism." The standard total coliform doesn't cause diseases, but usually indicates the presence of other organisms that might.
The sites where the samples in question came from include The American Institute for Economic Research and Bard College at Simon's Rock, both in Great Barrington, as well the Savoy Elementary School, the Berkshire School in Sheffield, the New Boston Inn in Sandisfield, and the Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough, among others.
After further testing, the Berkshire School was found to have standard coliform present in its raw water, but no E. coli, according to Mass. DEP spokesman Ed Coletta. He said they are "shocking" the water to kill any possible bacteria and may implement a chlorine system if necessary.
The water supply at Uncle Larry's is also being treated, he said. The other sites, after further testing, were determined to be safe, according to the DEP.
Enser, said his attorney, is currently in discussions with another company he hopes will take over Enviro-Labs "so everyone feels safe."
Scrimo said Enser was "giving the company he built up over 30 years away" with "no financial gain" on Enser's part.
"He's very concerned with the public's health," Scrimo told the court.
"It certainly doesn't seem like it," the judge shot back.
Ford appointed Springfield lawyer Joseph Dusel as receiver for Enviro-Labs, meaning he will be responsible for managing the company's affairs until it's decided what will become of the company.
The judge also banned Enser from having anything to do with the company.
He remains free on personal recognizance and is due back in court on June 19 for a pretrial conference.
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