News Briefs: Private Contractor Found Dead in Holding Tank

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, an operator in Bolton, New York, is sentenced for falsifying wastewater samples

A private contractor hired to test and maintain several wastewater treatment plants was found dead in a holding tank after an apparent drowning at the Metamora Wastewater Treatment Plant in Indiana.

The man, Mickey Lounsbury, reportedly worked alone. His family had filed a missing persons report and deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene after Lounsbury’s vehicle was discovered at the plant.

“This is a tragic loss and our thoughts and condolences go out to the Lounsbury family,” Franklin County Sheriff Peter Cates tells

The death appears to have been accidental, according to authorities.

New York Operator Sentenced for Falsifying Test Results

The former lead operator at a wastewater treatment plant in Bolton, New York, was sentenced to three years' probation for falsifying water test results.

Thomas French was under investigation for a year for his role in adding chemicals to wastewater samples to make them seem like they were conforming to state regulations. He pleaded guilty last September.

Expert Says Overseers Should Have Known Flint's Plant Was a Mess

A water treatment expert who was asked to look at Flint, Michigan’s facility claims regulators at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality who were overseeing it should have noticed problems as soon as they walked into the plant.

Robert Bowcock told a district court judge recently that he could see the plant was a mess in early 2015. “And the reason it was a mess was it was a treatment plant that was seldom used and sat in mothballs 50 weeks out of the year,” he said, according to “It was sort of like grandma’s Chevy — full of spiderwebs, dust and bad oil.”

Lead Levels in New Jersey Highest in 17 years

According to the latest numbers released by the state of New Jersey, lead levels in Newark are higher than they've been in 17 years of testing. In the most recent monitoring period, 240 samples were taken between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2018, showing 100 samples above 15 ppb, while 10 percent of samples averaged 47.5 ppb. In the three most recent monitoring periods, the worst 10 percent didn’t average more than 27 ppb.

Erik Olsen of the Natural Resources Defense Council tells the results are “jaw-dropping” and “knock-your-socks-off high.”

Although last spring Newark Mayor Ras Baraka claimed that reports of elevated lead levels were nothing more than a political stunt, he recently wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to allocate funding to fix lead lines in the city rather than spend $5 billion on a border wall.

“I am writing to express my deep concern that you are seriously thinking of declaring a national emergency to fund a proposed $5 billion border wall,” Baraka wrote in the letter. “I want to bring your attention to a true emergency that puts millions of our citizens at risk: The decaying infrastructure of our water systems which has created a crisis in Newark, the State of New Jersey and across America. Dangerously high levels of lead are entering homes and our children's blood through lead service lines despite the fact that any level of lead can damage the developing brains of young children.”


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