MOUNT VERNON — A Mount Vernon city employee resigned after admitting to falsifying wastewater water quality reports.
The city accepted Robert Baumberger’s resignation Jan. 20 for a Jan. 3 incident in which he failed to run the required water quality tests during his shift. At the time, Baumberger was working a late shift and was required to run tests every two hours.
Although falsifying water quality reports can be prosecuted by the EPA under certain circumstances, Baumberger’s behavior was not reported to the EPA, Mount Vernon Safety Services Director Rick Dzik said. Dzik said that the falsified test data were not included in the state report that goes to the EPA, and that is why the EPA was not notified. As such, Dzik said he does not believe an investigation by the EPA is underway.
EPA Spokesperson Anthony Chenault said Monday that the EPA “does not comment on whether or not the (EPA) has open investigations.”
The News requested Baumberger’s personnel file Feb. 18 in a public records request, along with the personnel file of another city employee. City Law Director Rob Broeren’s office did not complete the public records request until March 26; Dzik said the hold-up was because of the size of the other personnel file and the number of redactions that had to be made.
Baumberger was a water plant operator with the utilities department. He had been with the city for 16 years, starting work in 2004.
Baumberger was working alone at the plant Jan. 3. According to information in Baumberger’s personnel file, Utilities Superintendent Mathias Orndorf went to the plant at approximately 5 p.m. to serve Baumberger with a verbal warning for a chlorine dioxide underfeed event that occurred Dec. 5, 2019. When Orndorf arrived, he saw Baumberger was in an office on the phone. Orndorf went to wait in another office.
At 5:27 p.m. Orndorf checked to see if Baumberger was off the phone and noted that the 5 p.m. water tests had not been conducted. Orndorf returned to the other office, and, at approximately 5:39 p.m., heard Baumberger enter the lab and do a quick test, in which he could hear a beaker being stirred for about a minute. The test normally takes two and a half minutes.
At that time, Orndorf left the office and reviewed the test documentation for 5 p.m. He noted all test numbers had been filled out. However, the 12 minutes that had elapsed since checking on Baumberger and the time the reports were checked was not enough time to conduct all the tests. Orndorf further noted that only one of the testing beakers had been used.
Orndorf confronted Baumberger with the test results and said he should cross out the falsified results or be turned over to the EPA for investigation.
In a Jan. 16 pre-disciplinary conference with Dzik, Baumberger did not dispute that he had falsified tests. He said he did do the chlorine dioxide test, the test for which he received the reprimand from the Dec. 5 incident.
Baumberger attributed his failure to do the reports to a medical condition, which he said “flares up” during his shift.
Baumberger resigned at the end of the disciplinary conference. His formal resignation letter was turned in Jan. 20.
Baumberger’s personnel file shows no previous discipline for falsifying water quality reports.
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