For Immediate Release - July 22, 2009

Lab Owner Arraigned for Submitting Falsified Water Testing Reports to Municipalities

WOBURN - The former owner of Thorstensen Laboratory Inc. of Westford was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court for submitting falsified water testing reports to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for several municipalities in the Commonwealth, including Ashby, Carlisle, Harvard, and Lawrence. Michael Carlson, 56, of Westford, was arraigned yesterday on charges of making false reports to the MassDEP (50 counts), Larceny under $250 (2 counts), and Larceny over $250 (2 counts). The charges of larceny against Carlson stem from the allegations that the defendant collected thousands of dollars from municipalities for water tests that had either not been conducted or had been conducted at a laboratory not certified to conduct the water tests. At arraignment, Carlson entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance.

The integrity of public drinking water systems is based on regular water testing by qualified laboratories. The failure to properly test samples or the reporting of false results undermines the system that allows MassDEP to determine whether a public water supply is safe. False reporting threatens and endangers the public health.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF) that commenced following an unannounced enforcement inspection at Thorstensen Laboratory conducted in December 2008 by the MassDEP Laboratory Certification Program. Following that inspection, MassDEP revoked Thorstensen Laboratory's entire certification to conduct scientific tests on water supplies as well as on waste water.

The investigation found that Carlson had long-term contracts with several municipalities to conduct scientific tests on the safety of water supplies. According to the indictment, after Thorstensen was decertified by MassDEP in August of 2007 and March of 2008 for several tests on water supplies based on deficiencies observed during routine on-site inspections, Carlson informed MassDEP that he would subcontract these scientific tests to other labs that were certified and thus remain in business. The investigation found that Carlson was not, in fact, subcontracting out these tests, but was instead manipulating the lab results to make them appear as if they had been conducted by certified laboratories, when the water samples had either not been tested at all or had been tested at Thorstensen, a lab that had been decertified.

A Middlesex Grand Judy returned the indictments against Carlson on June 9, 2009. Carlson was arraigned yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court. At arraignment he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. Carlson is due back in court for a pre-trial conference on August 20, 2009.

This case was investigated by the Massachusetts Environmental Crimes Strike Force (ECSF), an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General's Office, and investigators and engineers from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The ECSF is overseen by Attorney General Martha Coakley, MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles. The ECSF investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm the state's water, air, land or that pose a significant threat to human health, safety, welfare or the environment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Wendoly Langlois, of Attorney General Martha Coakley's Criminal Bureau. Officers of the Massachusetts Environmental Police, investigators Tim Dame, Stephen Spencer and Richard Tomczyk from the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Office in Boston and Lisa Touet and Jenna Kotuli from the MassDEP Laboratory Certification Program participated in the investigation.

Members of the public who have information regarding a potential environmental crime are encouraged to contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General's Office at 617-727-2200.