By Linda Cicoira — A former NASA Wallops Flight Facility lab manager/quality assurance officer will not serve time in prison for making false statements or representations about Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, known as TKN, or discharges that are “important because excess nitrogen in a waterway may lead to reduced levels of dissolved oxygen and negatively impact aquatic plants and other organisms,” according to court records.
Monica Kristine Borowicz, 50, of Mount Wharton Estates in Assawoman, was given three years of probation last week in U.S. District Court, in Norfolk, Va. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson also fined Borowicz $5,000 and ordered her to make restitution of $6,717.75 to NASA. She was also ordered to pay a special assessment of $100.
Borowicz was working for contractor LJT & Associates when she went on vacation in March 2018 and another worker began updating control charts and found lab records had discrepancies that couldn’t be justified.
She pleaded guilty to the charge in May. The other worker also worked for LJT and was not identified. The plea was part of a bargaining agreement with U.S. States Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger and U.S. Assistant States Attorney Joseph L. Kosky. The prosecutors agreed not to go forward with any other charges against Borowicz in return for her waiving indictment and pleading guilty to the single charge.
She could have been sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison and fined $250,000.
“Although Borowicz falsified the data, there is no evidence to believe that the Wallops discharge was in excess of the permit limit or that the Wallops discharge was a danger to the environment,” the court file stated. “TKN testing done since March 2018 on the Wallops discharge has always demonstrated that it was below the applicable permit limit.”
Datasheets filed since Dec. 4, 2017, were missing and others showed figures for different dates and different tests contained identical readings, a result that is not possible, the court records show. “These irregularities resulted in internal and external audits being conducted on the LJT lab.” The record stated, “111 of 219 TKN analyses from Jan. 4, 2017 to March 20, 2018, (were) considered to be ‘suspect’ because documentation was unavailable, missing, incorrect, or copied from other data. An internal audit of tests conducted April 1, 2014, through the end of 2016, identified 408 NASA samples as suspect because of TKN non-conformities. All of these analyses were conducted by Borowicz.”
She “was qualified and knowledgeable in performance of the TKN testing,” the prosecutors said. “Borowicz had worked as a laboratory technician for over 27 years. As part of her certification, she was required to perform and pass a biannual TKN proficiency test.”
An audit also showed “Borowicz did not perform TKN tests for NASA in December 2017 and January 2018.” And that she gave the “false and fabricated results” in the required reported she filed with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality “for December 2017 and January 2018 as part of (the) Wallops discharge permit.”