News Feature | November 8, 2017

After False Results Scandal, Two Utility Employees Vindicated

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

altavista.reg

After over a year of legal work, it appears the book has closed on an investigation into altered water test results in Virginia as two former utility employees have been largely cleared of wrongdoing.

“The final two employees under investigation by the state into altered water test results at the Altavista Water Treatment Plant will keep their licenses, pay no fines and will be required to complete two hours each of Continuing Professional Education in Ethics,” reported The News & Advance.

Even though they both violated state regulations for operating water treatment plants, the employees, Christopher Brumfield and John Jacobs, received the minimal continuing education requirements because they were the ones to report the falsified records to the town.

This saga all started when the state began investigating allegations that employees at Altavista had been altering test results to make water quality appear better than it was in 2015. Regulators investigated the plant’s former superintendent Ed Callahan Jr., and the former plant manager Chester Cofflin, along with Brumfield, Jacobs, and others.

“After looking at the numbers, [Virginia Department of Health’s Jeffrey Wells] believes employees were modifying numbers that already met the minimum requirements so the town would be eligible for special recognition,” The News & Advance reported in 2016. “He does not know how long it has been going on.”

Brumfield originally reported that Callahan and Cofflin were falsifying records. During the investigation, Jacobs provided 21 notebooks in which he had been recording the accurate water testing results, before logging that information digitally and passing it on to Callahan and Cofflin. Both Callahan and Cofflin ended up being fined thousands of dollars each and had their licenses revoked.

Since the dust has settled, it appears that the treatment plant has reestablished itself as fully functioning and capable of treating the community’s water supply.

“Altavista’s water plant recently finished a round of testing for lead and copper levels in the water supply, and the findings showed Altavista’s water results fell ‘well below the Federal Action Levels,’ according to a news release from the town,” per The News & Advance.

To read more about misbehaving treatment plant employees visit Water Online’s Labor Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Norfolk Southern Staunton River BridgeMatthew Ridpath © 2010 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/