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The state Board of Health on Thursday revoked the license of the Earle water system's operator after finding that he submitted false information on lead and copper testing in 2018.

Following the recommendation of its Drinking Water Advisory and Operator Licensing Committee, the board said Danny Clark can retake the training course for the water operator license and reapply for it after six months.

Clark's attorney, Tom Donaldson of Marion, asked the board for a punishment that stopped short of suspension, saying Clark hadn't been in other trouble during his more than 40 years as a water operator.

But Reginald Rogers, deputy general counsel for the state Department of Health, called the committee's recommendation "quite generous."

He noted that lead contamination can pose health risks and that the department had recommended the revocation last at least two years.

"The department does take falsification very seriously," Rogers said.

Clark was also the manager for the Parkin Rural Water Association in Cross County and the Northern Ohio Water Association in Poinsett County, Donaldson said.

The Health Department last year began investigating complaints by residents that their signatures had been forged on documents claiming that water samples had been collected from their houses and submitted for testing in September 2018.

At the request of the department, Earle Mayor Sherman Smith collected statements from seven residents who confirmed their signatures had been forged.

Such tests are meant to determine whether pipes inside homes are causing contamination, Rogers said.

Clark, he said, admitted he had falsified the signatures and had collected the water from taps outside the homes.

Smith supervised the collection of other water samples from inside homes that found the water did not contain harmful lead or copper levels, the department has said.

Donaldson said Clark had "lost his lead and copper testing plan in a flood" and "believed he was under an extreme time crunch" to complete the testing.

Smith also argued for leniency, saying water operators are hard to find.

"Other than this incident, we feel like he's done a good job," Smith said.

Metro on 01/24/2020

Print Headline: Arkansas Board of Health finds city water system's operator submitted false testing data; license pulled

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