AG: Fitchburg Man Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Water Quality Reports
BOSTON -- The president of a Fitchburg-based private wastewater treatment and engineering company has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in connection with falsifying wastewater samples and test results at condominium complexes in Dover, Holliston, and Lunenburg, Attorney General Maura Healey said Friday.
Kent Oldfield, age 52, of Fitchburg, the president of New SRA Inc. and New England Engineering Group, LLC, pleaded guilty Thursday in Middlesex Superior Court to six counts of knowingly tampering with wastewater test methods and 14 counts of knowingly making false reports to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection under the state’s Clean Waters Act.
Following the plea, Judge Laurence D. Pierce sentenced Oldfield to three years of probation, 50 hours of community service focused on protecting the environment, a $19,500 fine, a four-month suspension of his wastewater operation certification, and additional reporting requirements for the full term of his probation.
“The state expects certified operators like the defendant to truthfully report that their wastewater discharge is safe,” said Healey. “Falsifying wastewater samples and test results puts the health of our residents and our water quality at risk.”
Oldfield’s company was certified to treat the wastewater for several privately owned condominium complexes in Lunenburg, Dover and Holliston. These condo associations have groundwater discharge permits issued by MassDEP that allow them to discharge treated wastewater into the ground from their on-site treatment plants.
As a state-certified operator of those treatment plants, Oldfield was required to provide monthly sampling and analysis of the pollutants that remain in the wastewater leaving the plant to ensure that the system is working properly to protect communities from dangers associated with untreated wastewater, like bacterial contamination in groundwater and nearby waterbodies.
“Accurate monitoring data is essential to protecting public health and the environment,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Certified wastewater operators are obligated by law to report accurate and timely information to MassDEP. We are committed to identifying and enforcing on those who seek to save money and cut corners by filing false, inaccurate or misleading information.”
These charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by the Attorney General’s office, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton, and MassDEP Commissioner Suuberg.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, in July and August 2014, Oldfield submitted to a laboratory for testing samples from two wastewater treatment facilities he had been hired to operate. Those samples should have been, but were not, taken from each facility’s stream of treated wastewater. Oldfield later submitted the results from those samples to MassDEP as though they had come from the facilities’ wastewater.
The Strike Force investigation also revealed that, on dozens of occasions between March 2013 and February 2015, Oldfield falsified wastewater sampling results from three condominium facilities in reports to MassDEP in order to cover up permit violations at those facilities, according to the AG.
In reports to MassDEP, Oldfield falsified the level of nitrate and total nitrogen, which can cause adverse health and ecological effects if discharged in excess of the legal limit, and also failed to report improper testing of dozens of wastewater samples.
Oldfield was indicted on the charges by a statewide grand jury in March 2017.