LAWRENCE COUNTY, Pa. (WKBN) – Two men were charged with falsifying documents that could have led to a catastrophe with a natural gas pipeline in Lawrence County.
The case surrounds radiologist certification documents. Joseph Berkich, 45, of Washington County, is charged with falsifying industrial radiologist certification documents to get work on x-raying a gas pipeline project for EnTech Energy, then conspiring with Welton Darl Shipe to cover up his deception, according to the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry.
While working as a quality assurance manager at EnTech, Shipe hired Berkich as an industrial radiographer to x-ray and check welds on sections of the pipeline, but Berkich didn’t provide documents that he was certified to do that work.
EnTech repeatedly asked Berkich for the certifications, according to investigators, and when he finally provide the paperwork, the documents contained forged signatures and it was discovered that Berkich was never trained nor certified to do that type of work, according to investigators.
Berkich and Shipe are related by marriage and knew each other prior to working on the project.
“These men allegedly put lives at risk by carelessly ignoring certifications and safety assurance requirements in an effort to profit from pipeline work,” Henry said. “Unfortunately, we have seen recently the devastating environmental impacts of such carelessness, and my office is committed to holding accountable those who put the environment and our citizen’s health and lives at risk.
EnTech hired a certified radiographer to inspect the pipeline and found that Berkich signed off on seven bad welds that “threatened the integrity of the project and endangered the public,” Henry said.
Investigators also discovered that Berkich, at Shipe’s direction, came in when a project inspector was not on site, and cut out bad welds and repaired them without reporting the repairs.
In all, Berkich is charged with Forgery, Theft by Deception, Receiving Stolen Property, Tampering with Public Records, Tampering with Records or Identification, Risking a Catastrophe, and Criminal Conspiracy.
Shipe is charged with Tampering with Public Records, Tampering with Records or Identification, Risking a Catastrophe, Criminal Conspiracy, and Unsworn Falsification to Authorities.
Entech Engineering has done pipeline work in Columbiana County and on several sites in Western Pennsylvania, according to the company website.