Newtown News of Interest
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Merck Chemist Dumped Potassium Cyanide in Storm Drain in Effort to Avoid Arrest!

Bucks County chemist is accused of stealing more than 200 grams of a deadly chemical from his employer and later dumping it into a stormwater drain in Bucks County, authorities announced on Tuesday.


Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele announced on Tuesday that Richard O'Rourke, 60, of Warrington, Bucks County, told authorities that he dumped 219.79 grams of potassium cyanide into a stormwater inlet in Bucks County in December after his employer at the time, Merck & Co., became suspicious that he had taken it and an investigation was launched. The lethal dose for potassium cyanide is 200-300 mg.


The alleged incident sparked a two-week period of testing and monitoring stormwater systems, outfalls, retention, waterways and their tributaries in the Philadelphia area earlier this winter, according to an affidavit from the Upper Gwynedd Township Police Department.


But officials said the significant rainfall that fell several days after O'Rourke allegedly dumped the chemical should have been able to flush it out of any stormwater inlet. The state Department of Environmental Protection concluded that the chemical would've been diluted and washed out, according to the affidavit. 


Officials ended their investigation on Dec. 29 and say they found no evidence to suggest that potassium cyanide had contaminated drinking water or that the alleged dumping caused a toxic impact in any way. 

johnmacknewtown's insight:

I spoke to Daniel Angove, Assistant General Manager at the Newtown Artesian Water Company, who assured me that this was never a threat to Newtown’s water supply because the company purchases water north (upstream) from where the chemical was dumped. In addition, water companies were put on “high alert” for two weeks after the incident and conducted intensive testing, assessing and monitoring stormwater systems, outfalls, retention basins, waterways and their tributaries. They found no evidence of a toxic impact, according to news sources. “There never was concern about our water,” said Angove, “and if there was, our customers would be the first ones to know.” He went on to explain that the company has a reverse 911 system for immediate threats. This would place a call to everyone who has their information in the system. If it were a less serious, localized problem, the company would hang information on doors in the affected neighborhoods as well as use news outlets and social media to notify people. “People would know and they wouldn’t have to wait and learn about it in Newtown Patch” weeks afterward, said Mr. Angove.

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Newtown News of Interest
These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources that may be of interest to Newtown area residents. Please click on the "From" link to access the full original article. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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