Charges: Pa. water customer in arrears burned workers with acid

A Pennsylvania woman who didn't pay her water bill has been charged with felonies including the use of weapons of mass destruction after she burned three municipal workers with acidic drain cleaner as they tried to restore her service, authorities said.

Deborah Samulski, 61, is also charged in Westmoreland County with risking a catastrophe and criminal mischief, and with misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment. A preliminary hearing is set for this month, local media reported Tuesday.

Court documents don’t list an attorney representing Samulski, and a working phone number for her couldn’t be found Wednesday.

The water authority in Westmoreland County stopped service to Samulski’s home in Jeannette on Nov. 18 for nonpayment of water and sewer bills, local media reported. Authorities officials told police she made dozens of harassing and threatening phone calls until Nov. 25, when she paid $450.

Authorities said in court documents that a crew sent to her home that day to restore service found liquid and debris blocking access to the shutoff valve. Police said they used compressed air to clear the clog, resulting in three being sprayed with the liquid, causing chemical burns and irritation to their skin and clothing.

Detective Ray Dupilka said the men treated the exposure quickly and weren't seriously hurt. Authority spokesperson Matt Junker said they have since returned to work. Bottles of drain cleaner and the pipe were seized, and all the items that were sent to the state police crime lab for analysis tested positive for sulfuric acid, authorities say in court papers.

Police said in a criminal complaint that a man living in Samulski's home told police that he had seen her pour human feces and liquid from a bottle into the municipal pipe a day earlier, and he alleged this was done "to expose water authority employees to the liquid and human waste."

Police say Samulski told them she had used the cleaner in her basement, but police found dust and cobwebs in the drains there, according to court papers.


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