Thu, May 23

Former city foreman in water testing case to be sentenced Monday

Hans Burnett

Hans Burnett

PRESCOTT -- A former Cottonwood foreman accused of forging drinking water test results will be sentenced at the Yavapai County Superior Court in Prescott Monday.

Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley is the presiding judge in the case.

In May, an Arizona grand jury indicted Hans Burnett on felony charges after an investigation revealed he allegedly told employees to modify bacteria test results.

“From 2015 to 2016, Burnett allegedly instructed subordinate employees to modify the test results and paperwork associated with drinking water compliance samples in Cottonwood,” according to a news release by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “The altered results were submitted to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality as part of the City of Cottonwood’s drinking water compliance obligations.”

Between 2015 and 2016, Colilert testing samples were inappropriately recorded, according to an Arizona Department of Health Services report. Coliforms are a group of related bacteria used as an indicator of the pathogens in drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The bacteria is generally not harmful to humans with a few exceptions.

Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh said “there was no indication the public was ever at risk” as the water sample was contaminated, not the source.

Bartosh said the complaints that ignited the investigation into Cottonwood’s water system were filed by “former disgruntled employees.”

In an email to The Verde Independent, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Erin Jordan said ADHS alerted ADEQ after they discovered the issue with the water sample. ADEQ then sent inspectors to the public water systems and collected water samples.

“The systems are in compliance with federal drinking water standards,” she wrote in the email. “Residents in the City of Cottonwood are being supplied healthy drinking water.

According to Cottonwood city staff, the employee who took the original contaminated water sample was brand new and inexperienced.

“It was resampled but proper protocol wasn’t followed, Bartosh said. “The paperwork wasn’t filled out properly.”

On Oct. 29, Burnett pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit criminal damage, according to court documents.

Burnett, who resigned from the city on May 23, will be sentenced Monday, Nov. 26 at 3 p.m.