Man Accused of Water Supply Tampering

An Ellsworth County man is facing federal charges for allegedly tampering with a public water supply.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard, 22-year-old Wyatt Travnichek is charged with one count of tampering with a public water system and one count of reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access.

The indictment alleges that on or about March 27th, 2019, Travnichek knowingly accessed the Ellsworth County Rural Water District’s protected computer system without authorization. During this unauthorized access, it is alleged Travnichek performed activities that shut down the processes at the facility which affect the facilities cleaning and disinfecting procedures with the intention of harming the Ellsworth Rural Water District No. 1, also known as Post Rock Rural Water District.

The Post Rock Rural Water District serves water directly in segments of eight counties and indirectly to two more counties, through over 1,500 retail customers and 10 wholesale accounts.

“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 Travnichek could face the following penalties:

Tampering with a Public Water System: Up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Reckless Damage to a Protected Computer During Unauthorized Access: Up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Christine E. Kenney is prosecuting the case.