- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A Raleigh County laboratory has been recertified to perform coal industry water sampling and analysis six months after a worker was sentenced for tampering.

The state Department of Environmental Protection allowed Appalachian Laboratories Inc. to resume testing of water pollution samples in August after the DEP conducted an audit, The Charleston Gazette-Mail (https://bit.ly/1PcRSr2) reported.

The DEP revoked the lab’s state certification last year. Former lab employee John W. Shelton Jr. was sentenced in February in federal court in Beckley to one year and nine months in prison for tampering with water samples.

DEP spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said changes made at Appalachian Labs included new ethics training for employees and improved recording practices for water quality sample monitoring.

“After reviewing those actions, completing an on-site inspection and verifying that all identified deficiencies were addressed by a corrective action plan and additional documentation, the DEP decided to withdraw the revocation,” Gillenwater said in an email to the newspaper.

The lab conducts sampling and analysis to ensure that pollutant discharges from coal mines into public waterways don’t exceed permitted limits.

Shelton, 47, of Daniels pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act by falsifying water samples. Shelton admitted he diluted water samples, substituted water he knew to be clean for actual mining discharges, and didn’t keep samples refrigerated as required by state and federal rules.

Shelton was the only one charged in the federal investigation, although U.S. Attorney Boone Goodwin said it remains open.

Appalachian Labs said in a statement that it “has been struggling to regain its business footing since the government announced the guilty plea of one individual involved with field sampling operations.”

The company called on Goodwin to conclude the investigation of more than two years.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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