Clean drinking water is essential for our health, so when a man with a foreign passport is discovered trespassing in a protected Chicago water plant, the FBI and Homeland security are alerted.
Authorities say Shahroon Augustine entered the Eugene Sawyer Water Purification Plant with a duffle bag, containing a passport from Pakistan.
He was charged with trespassing, then vanished.
“If our water supply isn’t vigorously protected, we as a society could have real trouble,” says Richard Schak, a former Chicago Police official who launched the criminal justice program at National Louis University.
He has studied municipal water systems.
“I hope it doesn’t fall through the cracks because it could indicate someone that’s looking, casing, trying to find something that’s vulnerable,” he says. “He could be an innocent guy that got into the wrong spot, but he could also be the worst type of person that we’re dealing with.”
Augustine, who may have lived in Palatine at one time, has had numerous previous arrests. He has pleaded guilty to two separate drug charges in Wisconsin. And last year he was charged with a misdemeanor after Palatine police stopped him with “an ax in the waistband of his pants” and a gym bag containing an expandable baton, duct tape and more.
Augustine spent 10 days in jail for that.
In the most recent incident, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and Homeland Security were notified after Augustine made his way onto the South Side water plant.
Augustine was released on his own recognizance. But he failed to appear in court and a warrant was issued. Three months later, he pleaded guilty and was re-sentenced to court supervision in late October.
A spokesperson for the city Department of Water Management, citing security, will not say how Augustine got access, though he claims he never breached “critical areas.”
“The city regards it as a serious offence to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the spokesperson says, adding the department is reviewing the incident to determine how security can be improved.
“If our water supply isn’t vigorously protected, we as a society could have real trouble,” says Schak, the former Chicago police official. “I mean, if the power grid goes out, we’ve got problems and we know we’ve been through blackouts and everything else. But there’s only so much bottled water to go around until we have trouble.”