Calgary

Alberta town fined, former employee given house arrest after water tests falsified

An Alberta town has been fined $10,000 for not immediately reporting malfunctions with its drinking water system, and its former employee will serve house arrest for falsely filing reports. 

Town had not reported malfunctions with system, employee had falsified water tests over a period of years

A former Bow Island employee will serve six months under house arrest for filing false reports about the town's drinking water quality. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

An Alberta town has been fined $10,000 for not immediately reporting malfunctions with its drinking water system, and its former employee will serve house arrest for falsely filing reports. 

The Town of Bow Island, which is located about 250 kilometres southeast of Calgary and has around 2,000 residents, doesn't treat its own drinking water.

It obtains its water from a treatment facility but is required to test it to ensure it remains safe for residents to drink.

The town should test its water's chlorine levels five times a week, test its lead levels once per year, and report any water main breaks to make sure its water isn't contaminated.

In September 2017, the town hired a new operator to work under its current operator at the time, Ryan Sanderson, according to an agreed statement of facts filed with the provincial court's criminal division.

The town was becoming increasingly concerned with Sanderson's job performance, so began to give more duties to the new operator.

In November 2017, the new operator noticed some chlorine samples were missing.

Sometime before Dec. 7, 2017, the town tried to get in touch with its Alberta Environment and Parks inspector, but she was on holidays. That day, the new operator called AEP's complaint line to report the town had discovered 20 daily chlorine samples hadn't been taken between January and September that year. Later, Bow Island reported 26 samples were actually missed. 

In January 2018, Sanderson met with a manager and admitted he copied 2014's lead sample results for 2015 and 2016. He was suspended, and fired the next month.

In February 2018, Bow Island notified AEP the lead sample results had been falsified. 

AEP investigated, and found other issues.

The town's drinking water safety plan hadn't been updated since 2013 and between 2014 and 2017, 31 water main breaks hadn't been reported.

It also found that between 2014 and 2017:

  • A total of 132 chlorine samples had been missed.
  • No monthly reports were filed for three months in 2015.
  • Four months results appeared to be copied from each other in 2016. 

The town was fined $10,000 and was placed under a 2.5-year probation order to monitor the town's compliance and ensure it's correctly monitoring and reporting any issues with its water system.

Sanderson was sentenced to six months of house arrest followed by two years probation. He'll also be banned from working with water systems in the province for 2.5 years. 

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