Indictment claims Kansas man tampered with Ellsworth County water system

Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — An indictment made public today claims an Ellsworth County man tampered with a public water system.

Acting United States Attorney Duston Slinkard says Wyatt Travnichek, 22, 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 the crime happened in March of 2019. Investigators allege that Travnichek knowingly got into the Ellsworth County Rural Water District’s protected computer system without authorization and that he performed activities that shut down cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

Slinkard alleges that Travnichek’s intention was to harm the Ellsworth Rural Water District No. 1, also known as Post Rock Rural Water District. At that time, the water district served over 1,500 retail customers and 10 wholesale customers over eight Kansas counties.

The indictment says Travnichek worked for Post Rock from January of 2018 until he resigned in January of 2019. It says part of his job responsibilities involved periodically logging into the computer system remotely.

“By illegally tampering with a public drinking water system, the defendant threatened the safety and health of an entire community,” Lance Ehrig, special agent in charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Kansas, said in a news release. “Today’s indictment sends a clear message that individuals who intentionally violate these laws will be vigorously prosecuted.”

KSN has reached out to the EPA to see how long the cleaning and disinfecting system was off and to see if anyone in the water district suffered any ill effects.

Slinkard says Travnichek is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Travnichek is scheduled to appear in a Topeka courtroom April 22, at 2 p.m.

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