Pa. AG: Falsified drinking water reports put health at risk

 

The owner of a Berks County-based construction company has been arrested, accused by Pennsylvania prosecutors of putting people's health at risk by falsifying lab reports for water samples.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Friday the arrest of Matthew Barrasso, 43, of Mohnton, and the owner of Barrasso Excavation Inc., on charges of tampering with public records, a third-degree felony; forgery; and unsworn falsification. He's also accused of violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Shapiro said his office got the case from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the charges stem from an investigation of Barrasso's work in Berks and Lancaster counties.

Barrasso Excavation, located in Oley Township, was hired in June 2017 to replace a water main in Wyomissing, according to Shapiro, who said that Barrasso subsequently changed lab results to indicate that samples from the water main were negative for total coliform and E. coli.

The borough, acting on those results, connected the new water main to the Wyomissing distribution system that served approximately 40 residential connections, Shapiro said.

"Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to pure water -- and I will do everything in my power to defend that right," Shapiro said. "This defendant recklessly changed lab results to lie about the quality of the drinking water for dozens of households, putting the health and well-being of those citizens at risk."

Barrasso is accused by Shapiro's office of doing the same thing in Quarryville, Lancaster County.

The charges against Barrasso were filed before Magisterial District Judge Steven Chieffo in Berks County.

"I'm grateful for the hard work of my Office's Environmental Crimes Section to hold the defendant accountable and protect the drinking water of the people of Berks and Lancaster Counties," Shapiro said.

Shapiro said he has made it a priority to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes, including those that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. In February, the attorney general filed 161 criminal charges against the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority for failing to notify residents when the agency replaced lead water lines.

69 News' calls to Barrasso's business have not been returned.