A Kansas man is facing charges for accessing a computer system and tampering with a rural Kansas public water system, federal officials said.

Wyatt A. Travnichek, 22, of Ellsworth County, Kansas ended up charged Wednesday with one count of tampering 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 said on March 27, 2019, Travnichek accessed the Ellsworth County Rural Water District’s protected computer system without authorization.

During this unauthorized access, Travnichek is charged with performing 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.

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“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 of tampering with a public water system, Travnichek could get up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. If convicted of reckless damage to a protected computer during unauthorized access, he could get up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Tampering with water systems has been in the news of late as a hacker ended thwarted in an attempt to increase the level of lye in the water system at an Oldsmar, Florida, water treatment plant in early March.


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