The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
An Ascension Parish worker was arrested after urinating in the water supply for several thousand people in the Donaldsonville area on at least two separate occasions, authorities said Thursday.
Parish officials said at no time was the public in danger and samples show the water quality is “in good standing and meets all safe water drinking requirements.”
The man, Michael Mastin, 57, of Baton Rouge, had been a long-tenured employee at the treatment plant, sheriff’s deputies and parish officials said.
Parish officials provided surveillance video appearing to show the now former worker urinating into a water tank at the west bank water plant in Donaldsonville. When Mastin spoke to sheriff’s investigators, he didn’t provide a reason for his alleged actions, deputies said.
The plant, which the parish bought from a private company in 2016, serves the city of Donaldsonville and some parts of Ascension’s unincorporated west bank. It has two bathrooms, parish officials said, including one on its second floor where Mastin worked.
The public plant does not supply Ascension ‘s more populous east bank. That side of Ascension primarily relies on the city of Gonzales’ public water system and a private system owned by a subsidiary of Baton Rouge Water Co.
Mastin was fired within hours of the allegation first being made about 9:22 a.m. Wednesday and after Parish President Clint Cointment was able to verify the claim, parish government officials said.
“As Parish President, I am extremely disappointed, and I find this conduct disgusting and unacceptable. This type of behavior will never be tolerated in parish government,” Cointment said in a statement Thursday. “Since the beginning of this administration, we have held our parish employees accountable, and this is no exception. I demand accountability on behalf of the public.”
It took parish officials about an hour and 15 minutes after the allegation was made to “verify the report was credible,” according to a timeline parish officials provided about their response.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office was notified about the allegations against Mastin at 10:46 a.m. Wednesday, the timeline says. The state Department of Health and 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office were notified between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Cointment said his administration has also notified federal authorities.
“This incident is now in their jurisdiction as an ongoing investigation,” he said.
Mastin was booked Wednesday on counts of contaminating water supplies and criminal damage to critical infrastructure, said Donovan Jackson, sheriff’s spokesman.
Jackson said Mastin faces two counts on each of the charges because video surveillance shows he urinated in the water tank on two different occasions. Jackson didn’t have dates, though they were within the past 30 days.
Jackson also said that authorities don’t know if there were prior incidents because the water plant’s video archive only goes back 30 days.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:31 p.m. Thursday, March 23, 2023, to include information about the water plant’s bathrooms.
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