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Trial of Henry Papuga, Former Water Co. Manager, Rescheduled to November

Updated: Henry Papuga, who for years was the public face of the Milford Water Company, will be tried on state charges that he intentionally tampered with drinking water samples.

Updated: the trial of Henry Papuga, former manager of the Milford Water Company, will begin with jury selection on Nov. 28, according to the state attorney's office. The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday, but was rescheduled due to conflicts.

 

Original post:

Three years ago last summer, when Milford residents were told to boil their drinking water for two weeks, the general manager of the Milford Water Company was under tremendous pressure to fix the problem, according to public officials.

under so much pressure that he intentionally added a chemical to drinking water samples, to lift the boil water order? That's the contention of state prosecutors.

Papuga will be tried next week on six counts of tampering with environmental monitoring device or method, and two counts of making false statements. He is represented by criminal defense attorney William Kettlewell, of Boston. 

Kettlewell could not be reached for comment.

According to records filed in Worcester Superior Court, the criminal trial is expected to begin Monday, and continue for five days. The list of witnesses includes several current and former employees of the Milford Water Co., as well as several Milford public officials. Exhibits include photos, lab reports, emails and documents, including the boil water order.

A Worcester County grand jury indicted Papuga in September 2011 on the eight charges, which relate to drinking water samples hand-delivered by Papuga to a Westborough lab, and his statements about the analyses.

The state Attorney General's Office, which brought the charges, contends that intense pressure on Papuga to resolve the boil water crisis prompted him to tamper with six water samples. Lab analyses determined the samples contained sodium hypochorite, according to a court filing.

"It is highly unlikely and not reasonable that sodium hypochorite was accidentally added to the samples," according to a filing by Assistant Attorney General Sarah Bookbinder.

Under the state Department of Environmental Protection boil order, which lasted nearly two weeks, Milford residents and businesses were told to not consume or use the Milford water unless they boiled it, after samples showed evidence of bacterial contamination.

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Papuga, a 24-year employee of the Milford Water Co., as manager was responsible for the employees who started twice-daily sampling of the water supply, following the Aug. 10, 2009 order. Papuga also was handling media inquiries at that time, which extended beyond the town, and was responsible for working with state and local officials in responding to the crisis.

Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin, Fire Chief John Touhey and Town Administrator Louis Celozzi are expected to testify about their experience and conversations with Papuga in the days following the boil water order, including Papuga's decision to distribute bottled water to town residents.

According to a summary of proposed evidence, submitted by prosecutors, O'Loughlin told prosecutors the company agreed to bear all the costs of its water distribution. The distribution, which lasted nine days, provided bottled water to about 6,000 vehicles a day. Three or four days into the distribution, which operated out of Milford High School, the "defendant first suggested stopping the water distribution due to its cost to the Water Company," according to the prosecution summary.

In order to lift the water boil order, the state DEP required two consecutive clean weeks of water samples. By Aug. 15, 2009, according to state prosecutors' statements, the focus of concern for the water supply was the area of Upper Purchase Street.

On that day, Papuga "hand-delivered" 41 samples taken that day to an analyst at Alpha Analytical in Westborough. For each, he submitted a chain of custody form, according to a motion submitted by prosecutors.

The results of the required analyses for chlorine residual amounts showed that five samples for the Purchase Street area "changed color upon the adding of a re-agent for bacterial testing. This was not supposed to occur." The residual testing revealed chlorine levels that were "off the testing scale," according to the document.

In an investigation leading up to the indictment, the prosecutor stated in a document, Papuga contended that "some of the sample bottles provided by Alpha to Milford Water Company were cracked or missing the standard chlorine neutralizing tablets."

In addition, the defendant "stated that he was concerned that someone (other than himself) at the Milford Water Company had tampered with [Saturday's] samples." The defendant also stated that one MWC employee "threw chlorine" into the Bear Hill water tank in order "to increase chlorine levels throughout the system," according to a motion filed by prosecutors.

Papuga retired as manager of the Milford Water Company in 2009. In January 2010, the attorney general's office began an investigation after the matter was initially investigated and referred to the office by the state DEP, according to a press release.

ACGreyhound October 24, 2012 at 07:54 PM
H.P. simply a patsy for the White family - he was used...

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