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Two former water officials in the town of Crestwood, Ill., have each been sentenced at a U.S. District Court to two years of probation for manipulating records showing that the town's water supplies had been tainted for two decades.
Former water clerk Theresa Neubauer, who was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, and certified water operator Frank Scaccia were spared prison terms because they were following the orders of Mayor Chester Stranczek, whom U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall described as "an evil genius." She stated that the two former employees at the water department could not have done much to prevent Stranczek's plot. The former mayor is now suffering from dementia and is unable to stand trial, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The case was exposed in 2007, when the state's Environmental Protection Agency detected high levels of vinyl chloride -- a chemical that can cause cancer -- in Crestwood's drinking water. Investigations led to a well that the EPA had deemed contaminated back in 1986, but the town's water department still continued drawing water from it for more than 20 years.
The two convicted former employees falsified records to hide this fact from the authorities, investigators found. The water department had two sets of records -- one that was to be presented in case of external check and another one, only for internal use, where the amount of water drawn from the contaminated well was recorded.