Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lab official who faked coal water quality reports said he was pressured by coal companies

The West Virginia lab technician who admitted to faking coal water quality reports told a federal judge that he and other employees at Appalachian Laboratories Inc. "falsified water quality samples under pressure from their coal company clients," Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette. John W. Shelton testified under oath that "the coal companies put a lot of pressure on the [laboratory] companies, smaller companies, to get good water data, and that was it."

Shelton "admitted that he diluted water samples, substituted water he knew to be clean for actual mining discharges and did not keep water samples refrigerated, as required by state and federal rules," Ward writes. He also said "that he and other Appalachian employees 'falsified and rendered inaccurate' water samples by diluting them with distilled water or replacing them with water they knew to be in compliance with permit standards. Appalachian officials used the term 'honeyhole' to refer to water from certain sites that would always test within permit limits and could be used in place of or to dilute 'bad water,' according to a 'stipulation of facts' agreed to by Shelton and federal prosecutors."

"Prosecutors allege Appalachian faked the sampling results to keep and increase its coal industry business by helping mine operators avoid fines and other costs associated with bringing mine pollution into compliance with permit limits," Ward writes. "So far, court records have not named specific mining operations where Appalachian falsified water samples, but prosecutors say that the company performed work for more than 100 mine sites." (Read more)

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