Chemist charged with taking cyanide, dumping in storm drain

This undated photo provided by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office in Norristown, Pa., shows Richard O'Rourke of Warrington, Pa., a former senior analytical chemist for Merck & Co. charged with causing or risking catastrophe, theft, receiving stolen property and recklessly endangering another person. Prosecutors say O'Rourke stole potassium cyanide from a laboratory at the pharmaceutical firm to use for pest control at home, but poured it down a suburban Philadelphia storm drain Dec. 15, 2017, when he learned there was an investigation. (Montgomery County District Attorney's Office via AP)

WARRINGTON, Pa. — A chemist stole potassium cyanide from his workplace to use as pest control at home and poured it down a suburban Philadelphia storm drain when he learned there was an investigation, prosecutors said.

Richard O'Rourke, 60, has been charged with risking a catastrophe, theft, receiving stolen property and recklessly endangering others. He's accused of taking about a cup of potassium cyanide from the Merck & Co. facility in Montgomery County in December.

Reached at his home on Wednesday morning, O'Rourke said didn't want to comment. A message seeking comment from his lawyer wasn't returned.

A co-worker witnessed him pouring potassium cyanide into a beaker and then into a Nalgene water bottle on Dec. 14, then leaving the building, according to a release from District Attorney Kevin Steele. That worker informed authorities, and O'Rourke later dumped the chemical near his Warrington home about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Philadelphia, after learning there was an investigation.

The state Department of Environmental Protection began monitoring the water supply after determining there was a possible threat to drinking water.

The department went into "high alert" and increased its monitoring at stormwater systems, retention basins, waterways and tributaries, from Dec. 15 to Dec. 29.

It was determined that there was no evidence of water contamination, or any environmental or human health impacts related to the dumping, department spokesman Neil Shader said.

Steele said a heavy rainfall at the time likely helped diffuse the chemical.

"It is concerning that someone was able to remove such a poisonous chemical, but thankfully through an immediate and swift response by many people, nobody was hurt," Steele said.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 6.

___

This story has been corrected to show the distance from Warrington to Philadelphia is about 30 miles, not 50 miles.

You may also interested in

At 93, legendary climber Fred Beckey still...

Aug 13, 2016

Legendary Seattle climber Fred Beckey is the focus of a new documentary film about his life

Hacker posts personal info of House Democrats and...

Aug 13, 2016

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling it "an electronic Watergate break-in."

Webcam whale research buoyed by viewers around...

Aug 15, 2016

Canadian researchers are turning to internet to learn about the social behavior thousands of beluga...

Congress receives FBI notes from Clinton interview

Aug 17, 2016

Congress has received FBI documents related to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a...

Close call: Feds see 2018 shortage in Lake Mead...

Aug 17, 2016

Amid punishing drought, federal water managers are projecting _ by a very narrow margin_ that Lake...

The Next Daily is the new generation of online publication, serving you the most recent discoveries made in science and technology on a daily basis. At The Next Daily, we believe in the power of consistent and reliable reporting to inspire and move mankind forward.

Contact us: sales[at]thenextdaily.com