A former Town of Cary employee pleaded guilty Monday in federal court after an investigation revealed that he falsified documentation for more than 275 water samples in 2014, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Christopher Dale Miller, 41, of Cary waived indictment and pleaded guilty to making material false statements in connection with sampling required under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is considered a felony, according to a news release. Miller could face a maximum punishment of five years in prison, three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine, a U.S. Department of Justice spokesman said Tuesday.
Miller was employed by the Town of Cary as a water system technician for 13 years, the town said. He was responsible for collecting water samples for testing from the drinking water system; testing for residual chlorine in the field; and collecting samples from various locations to be tested.
The investigation showed that Miller told the town that he had collected water samples from the required locations, according to the release. Instead, he had obtained samples from only a few locations. Authorities learned Miller falsified documentation for at least 278 water samples from Aug. 27 through December of 2014, according to the release.
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These samples and associated documentation are required for the drinking water monitoring program with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, formerly known as the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The town learned about the falsified documentation in late December 2014 after supervisors asked Miller about his schedule and noticed it didn’t reconcile with reports of where he said he collected samples, Town Manager Sean Stegall said.
After the town conducted an investigation, Miller was fired in January 2015, according to the town. His salary was $40,768.
The town collects daily samples for an average of 50,000 samples a year, Stegall said. The state requires 120 per month, or 1,440 per year.
While additional samples weren’t required to send to the state, Stegall said, the town was forced to invalidate samples Miller collected. That meant the town didn’t meet state minimums and was required to report the violation in its annual water quality report, Stegall said.
The town’s water was safe then and remains safe to drink, Stegall said.
Miller is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12.
The investigation was conducted by the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation’s Drug Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon