December Water Treatment Malfunction May Have Cost Worker’s Job

Haverhill Water Treatment Plant.

Last December’s malfunction at the city’s water treatment plant may have a cost a 30-year-veteran of the department his job.

The Dec. 11 incident was the subject of city councilor complaints for a three-month delay in notifying residents and a confusing letter about the problem. WHAV filed a request April 27 with the City of Haverhill under the state’s public records law, asking specifically if a particular employee’s “termination (is) related to water treatment plant operational problems.”

Human Resource Director Denise McClanahan responded John E. Dignus, listed as a Class IV water treatment plant operator, retired Feb. 23. Sources told WHAV Dignus was facing disciplinary action related to the treatment plant problem. McClanahan wrote Dignus was hired by the city Aug. 3, 1987. Public records suggest he is about 60 years old.

Attempts to reach Dignus by telephone were unsuccessful.

Deputy Public Works Director Robert E. Ward told city councilors March 21 that a series of short power outages at the water treatment plant last Dec. 11, resulted in a small quantity of inadequately chlorinated water being released into a “clean well” where water is held before it is pumped out of the plant. Ward said it was less than 1 percent of the total amount of water pumped out of the treatment plant that day.

The state Department of Environmental Protection in February found the city in violation of a state regulation mandating a certain level of disinfectant in the water, and ordered the city to notify residents within 90 days.

Ward said the letter received by most residents March 11 contained wording, discussing the hazards of drinking poorly treated water, required by the state. He agreed the message could have been confusing and even a bit scary for residents.

City Council President John A. Michitson told Ward, “The biggest problem was that the City Council wasn’t told ahead of time. It was embarrassing.” Michitson said residents called him worried about the contents of the letter, which sent him running to his mailbox to find out what the fuss was about.

6 thoughts on “December Water Treatment Malfunction May Have Cost Worker’s Job

  1. Why would anybody lose their job?? If I remember correctly it wasn’t that big of a deal. At least that’s what we heard from city hall and Mr ward.
    This is typical Haverhill BS!! This is why Haverhill is where it’s at and where it will continue to go.
    Nobody who thinks they are somebody is held accountable.

  2. The real story here is the corrupt city retirement board in the City of Haverhill and the mayor’s total lack of leadership and his disregard for what is in the best interest of Haverhill taxpayers.. That’s why news of Dignus facing a disciplinary action was never reported. It needed to be kept secret because the last thing the mayor wants is for it to be known he “again” let a city worker slide into retirement instead of holding them responsible for the performance of their job.

    It happens over and over that a city employee will be found to have done something completely inappropriate in the performance of their job and before even having a meeting to face disciplinary action they simply walk in and retire.

    Haverhill fire fighter Kevin Thompson was getting paid while serving prison time in a New Hampshire jail. After learning of the scam he and his brother fire fighters were pulling to ensure he continued to get a paycheck, it came out that he was driving city fire trucks for 18 years without even having a valid drivers license. He had a scheduled meeting to address this with the mayor and instead of attending that meeting he walked into the retirement office and filed for retirement.

    Haverhill police officer John Rogers was found to be literally sleeping on the job during his overnight shift. He would check in for his overnight shift and then go straight to his girlfriend’s house where he would stay for 5~6 hours before reporting back for duty. When it was found out what he was doing he also had a scheduled meeting with the mayor which he skipped and walked in and retired.

    In both of these cases the mayor did nothing to go after the retirement benefits these two hacks are receiving. In the private sector each of these guys would have been terminated immediately. But a corrupt mayor allowed each of these employees to retire, both at relatively young ages. That could literally cost Haverhill taxpayers millions of dollars to fund their retirements should they live long enough.

    The real scam is that the Haverhill retirement board is made up predominantly of ex-Haverhill city employees who served within a public employee union. History shows that these people NEVER vote against an employee when they seek retirement benefits, even when wrongdoing in the performance of their job (even criminal wrongdoing) is involved.

    It’s a complete joke that there isn’t some kind of waiting period when a city employee applies for retirement. But what really does it matter when we have a corrupt mayor and retirement board who rubber stamps approval of retirement applications no matter what a person has done while a city employee?

  3. Very interesting that a 30 year employee may have lost his job over the initial incident. But who will lose their job regarding the cover up of the incident ? Obviously, someone told people to be quiet for quite about what happened.

    • it clearly states in the article the plant has 90 days to report it to the public. It was reported within 90 days, stop with the conspiracy bull. No one was quiet.

      • Guess they forgot some people huh Stew ? “City Council President John A. Michitson told Ward, “The biggest problem was that the City Council wasn’t told ahead of time. It was embarrassing”

        Please, there are plenty of crap going on in Haverhill that leads many people to the same conclusion: No transparency. Maybe you are happy with the way things are done here, but a lot of people are not !