Former Fort Gibson Water Treatment Plant supervisor Christopher Neil Gauntt could be sentenced to five years in federal prison and fined up to $250,000 for falsifying a water quality report for the town.

Gauntt, 36, pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court to falsifying a report that certfied the safety of drinking water from the water plant, according to a media release from the Justice Department.

The charge is a felony.

Gauntt admitted that on or about June 12, 2008, he submitted a monthly operating report containing false data for drinking water that is provided to residents of Fort Gibson as well as residents of Muskogee Rural Water Districts 4 and 7, Cherokee Water drinking water systems, and the water systems for Corral Creek Subdivision and Ozark Water Inc.

“Falsifying information about the safety of the drinking water supply is dangerous,” Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said in the release. “Ensuring an adequate supply of safe, clean water is an important public health issue. We will continue to work with our partners at all levels of government to protect the people of this state and the water they drink.”

Gauntt was charged in Muskogee County District Court with five counts of embezzlement by employee and two counts of false declaration of ownership in pawn in September after being accused of pawning an $1,800 power washer, a steel pole saw and a laptop computer, valued at $800 each and owned by the town, according to officials. He received four five-year and three one-year deferred sentences and was ordered to pay $9,749 restitution, according to court records.

Under the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, which is administered and enforced by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Fort Gibson water treatment plant must provide drinking water that meets standards to ensure that the water is safe for human consumption. Two of the standards that must be met include turbidity and chlorine. If turbidity, the measure of clarity of drinking water, or chlorine levels are not within levels required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, there is a potential risk that the water could retain microorganisms that carry waterborne diseases, the media release states.

Gauntt admitted that he recorded levels in the monthly operating report submitted to Oklahoma DEQ that indicated the turbidity and chlorine levels were in compliance with required standards when he knew in fact they were not. In August 2008, Fort Gibson had sent a notice concerning this to residents who receive their drinking water from the Fort Gibson water treatment plant. Fort Gibson did not receive any information that anyone experienced any ill effects from the drinking water during that time period.

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