TESTING LABS – DON’T KNOW FRACK Part 4

BREAKING NEWS: September 25, 2013

DEP FINES ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY $60,000 FOR VARIOUS VIOLATIONS

 Excerpts: The Department of Environmental Protection announced today it has signed a consent order and agreement with Microbac Laboratories of Pittsburgh, which requires the lab to pay a civil penalty of $60,000 and to conduct an independent review of its laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland.

Microbac Baltimore was accredited under DEP’s National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program to test and analyze drinking water, non-potable water, and a variety of soils, chemicals and liquids.

During a DEP inspection in April 2013, DEP found a number of violations, such as failure to properly calculate holding times for samples; overall failure of management to provide proper quality control oversight; and not having sufficient corrective action protocols in place to address the violations.

As a result of DEP’s determination that these and other violations had not been addressed, Microbac agreed to voluntarily relinquish its accreditations and thus immediately ceased analyzing samples for environmental compliance purposes.

Microbac has agreed to replace its laboratory supervisor for its organics section and has already begun an independent third-party audit of the lab’s abilities to meet the conditions of its accreditation. Any issues the independent auditor’s report uncovers must be corrected.

NOTE: The identity of the “independent auditor” is not known or if one has been retained as of this date.

MICROBAC – TESTAMERICA – RANGE RESOURCES CONNECTION

Three families from Washington County, PA filed a lawsuit in May 2012 against Range Resources, Microbac Laboratories, Inc, and TestAmerica.

The lawsuit alleges Range Resources, Microbac Laboratories, Inc, and TestAmerica conspired to produce fraudulent test reports which misrepresented the families’ well water as good and contributed to their exposure to hazardous chemicals and a multitude of health problems.

  • According to the lawsuit, Range Resources knew its shale gas development operation on the Yeager farm property on McAdams Road in Amwell had contaminated the groundwater with chemicals from a leaking drilling waste pit and a 3 million-gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback impoundment as early as November 2010. But, the suit states, the company told the plaintiffs that tests showed their well water was safe to drink, shower and bathe in, cook with, and provide to farm animals and pets. Some of those animals were sickened, and some died.
  • The suit says full and complete test results, subpoenaed from Range but never revealed to residents near the Yeager well site, show that chemical contaminants similar to those found in the fracking flowback impoundment and the drill cuttings pit were also found in water samples from wells and springs.
  • Range showed or sent to the plaintiffs and the DEP less detailed test reports but, the lawsuit claims, omitted results for others, including several semi-volatile organic compounds that were present in the groundwater samples and the company’s impoundment and pit, and that showed the water was contaminated.
  • The filing alleges that in September 2011 Range provided incomplete drinking water test results from Test America to the DEP that omitted findings showing a high concentration of nitrate — which can cause cancer — plus fracking fluid, flowback water, uranium and silicon.

 MICROBAC LABORATORIES, INC.

Microbac Laboratories went on an acquisition buying spree between 2010 and 2012.  They acquired a number of other environmental labs including American Westech (2010), Penniman&Brown Inc (2011), Northeastern Environmental Laboratories (2012), Pocono Environmental Laboratories (2012) and FC Browne Inc (2012) and more recently Hill Engineering Analytical Laboratory (2013).

See Microbac locations in the map below. Click here to go to Microbac’s map on their website.microback lab mapOf interest is Northeastern Environmental Laboratories (NEEL).  In 2011, approximately 1 year prior to being acquired by Microbac, NEEL surrendered its accreditations and paid a $20,000 fine to settle violations found by state regulators during an inspection in the fall of 2010.

Northeastern Environmental Laboratories, based on North Main Avenue, agreed to give up the majority of its accreditations for drinking water and wastewater management and testing, the Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday. The department found violations of staff training, water-test supervision, records management and sample-handling protocols during an inspection in September 2011. Both the department and an attorney representing the lab said there is no indication that any test results were affected.

NEEL was acquired by Microbac in 2012, and was back into the testing business by operating under Microbac’s NELAC-accredited Harrisburg laboratory.

TESTAMERICA CUSTOM REPORTS

With regards to test reports, TESTAMERICA has “cutting edge technology” via their service called TOTAL ACCESS, (v4.0).

Per TestAmerica, the Total Access service allows its clients to customize the reports.  Note bullet point 2 User Customized Data Reporting Functionality in the first graphic below, and bullet point 3 in the second graphic about cloning and customization.

test america user customized data reportingtest america user customized-clone

In a Total Access training video on using Regulatory Limits it states:

  • “…here is where you can manage your custom limit sets”
  • “…to modify the operator limit values or units, double click the value you wish to change. Modify the selction by using the dropdown menu or text box”
  • “…If you wish to remove an analyte from the list, press delete to the right of the analyte to be removed.”

test america customizationTestAmerica’s Total Access is really Total Access as a client has the ability to download “project documentation, invoices, reports, EDDs, and COCs.”

Note the EXCEL download button.

test america excel downloadNot only does Total Access allow the client to customize a report, the  ability to download the documents to  an Excel format also allows the ample opportunity to further “customize” the data if desired prior to sending a copy to a property owner.

Keep in mind, when a drilling corporation requests a test report, the report goes to the driller NOT the property owner.  It is then up to the driller to provide the property owner a copy of the report or not.

How true, accurate and complete is the report provided to the property owner?  With software like Total Access, we really don’t know, just as we don’t know how complete the DEP test reports are according to DEP’s Suite Codes.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Don’t Know seems to be the operating principle for drillers, DEP and testing labs.

Related:

 

© 2013 by Dory Hippauf

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