ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Two former St. John the Baptist Parish Water Works employees were convicted Tuesday for covering up their failure to properly collect and record water samples from testing sites where a brain-eating amoeba was found in the water system, according to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.
Kevin Branch, 55, of LaPlace, and Danielle Roussel, 43, of Paulina, both pleaded guilty in 40th Judicial District Court to false swearing. Branch was convicted on two counts and Roussel was convicted on one count. In October a grand jury indicted the two for falsifying information on the water testing logs they were required to maintain.
Branch and Rousell were sentenced to one year in parish prison, with that sentence suspended, and six months of probation. Branch was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. Rousell was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. Each was ordered to pay a $400 fine.
The two were required to collect water samples from at least two locations, the Lions Water Treatment Plant in Reserve and an additional site in Mt. Airy, to ensure that the water contained the appropriate amount of chlorine to disinfect it and prevent the growth of the amoeba, known as Naegleria fowler. Branch and Roussel were required by law to record their findings on a daily log to be filed with the Department of Health and Hospitals.
However, a State Police investigation found that the two did not collect all the samples. Data from GPS permanently attached to the parish vehicles assigned to Branch and Roussel showed that they were nowhere near the testing sites on several days when they were supposed to be collecting and testing samples.
"These individuals ignored their responsibility to ensure the safety of the parish's drinking water supply, and they are being held criminally culpable for their disregard for the public's welfare," Caldwell said.