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DUNKLIN COUNTY, Mo. — The operator of the water system for two small Missouri bootheel communities admitted on Tuesday lying about the source of water he sent in for testing.

Randy Gardner was the water operator for the public water systems supplying more than 600 people in Hornersville and just over 500 in Arbyrd.

In June 2017, instead of sampling the water from the two public water systems, Gardner took water from the tap at his home and sent it in for testing, his plea agreement says. Gardner's home was supplied by the Dunklin County water supply.

Gardner said he tested water at various representative locations, including at Hornersville City Hall, his plea says.

Gardner was responsible for reporting the results of the tests to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Among the tests is one for E. coli, which can indicate the presence of fecal coliform. 

The water tested positive for E. coli. Gardner notified the Dunklin County Public Water System. Gardner's "offense did not seriously endanger the public health," his plea says.

Gardner pleaded guilty via Zoom in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to one felony count of making a false statement. At his Jan. 13 sentencing, he is likely to face probation under recommended sentencing guidelines.  

Robert Patrick • 314-340-8131

@rxpatrick on Twitter

This article originally ran on

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