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Ellsworth County man indicted for tampering with public water system

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Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 4:09 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - The United States Attorney’s Office said an Ellsworth County man could face two decades in prison for tampering with a public water system.

Charges against Wyatt A Travnichek, 22, include one count of tempering with a public water system and one count of reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access.

“Our office is committed to maintaining and improving its partnership with the state of Kansas in the administration and implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard. “Drinking water that is considered safe is essential to the protection of the public’s health.”

The indictment accuses Travnichek of accessing the Ellsworth County Rural Water District’s protected computer system without authorization and during this unauthorized access, performing illegal activities that shut down the processes at the facility which affect the facility’s cleaning and disinfecting procedures. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said The intention with the crime committed on or about March 27, 2019, was to harm g the Ellsworth Rural Water District No. 1, also known as Post Rock Rural Water District.

“By illegally tampering with a public drinking water system, the defendant threatened the safety and health of an entire community,” said Lance Ehrig, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Kansas. “EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to upholding the laws designed to protect our drinking water systems from harm or threat of harm. Today’s indictment sends a clear message that individuals who intentionally violate these laws will be vigorously prosecuted.”

If convicted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Travnichek faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the charge of tampering with a public water system and up to five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the charge of reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the e Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation.

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