- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for MassDEP Decertifies Laboratory in Leominster for Failing to Properly Analyze Drinking Water Samples and Report Results
Edmund Coletta, MassDEP – Director of Public Affairs
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has revoked the license of a water-testing laboratory after a state investigation determined that the company, Environmental Testing and Research Laboratories, Inc. (ETR) of Leominster, repeatedly failed to properly analyze private drinking water samples and report the test results in accordance with its certification and state regulations.
ETR’s decertification follows a comprehensive undercover investigation conducted by MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force (ESF) and the agency’s Laboratory Certification Program – Division of Environmental Laboratory Sciences (DELS), which was upheld in a final decision by MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg following an appeal and subsequent adjudicatory hearing on the license revocation.
“Vigorous, careful and targeted enforcement ensures a level playing field for the overwhelming majority of certified laboratories that comply with state regulations,” said ESF Director Pamela Talbot. “We investigate these kinds of complaints to ensure that consumers can trust that drinking water tested by certified labs is done so in accordance with all state requirements intended to protect the public health.”
“We expect all laboratories certified for the analysis of drinking water to consistently meet all state laboratory certification regulations in order to protect public health, and rigorously investigate and decertify laboratories that intentionally violate certification requirements,” said DELS Director Oscar Pancorbo, Ph.D.
Staff from DELS and ESF began the investigation following numerous complaints from local boards of health and homeowners suspicious of or confused by ETRs testing and reporting practices. ETR performed testing and reporting services primarily for owners of private water supplies and held certification from MassDEP’s Laboratory Certification Program for the analysis of drinking water.
The ESF conducted interviews with affected homeowners and board of health officials. The Laboratory Certification Program and ESF then inspected ETR’s laboratory facilities and partnered with a certified third-party to arrange for a series of professionally prepared “double-blind” water samples. ESF investigators, posing as homeowners from various parts of Massachusetts, then sent the spiked water samples to ETR for analysis and reporting of test results.
The results delivered by ETR showed that the laboratory had reported the existence of certain bacteria, fungi and chemicals that did not and could not exist in the sterile and spiked samples that undercover investigators had sent for testing. Homeowners receiving such reports from ETR had expressed confusion and concern upon receiving those results. The reports that the undercover ESF investigators received from ETR were very similar to those that alarmed or concerned homeowners and local health officials.
The results of the undercover investigation, and the ruling in the final appeals decision, showed that ETR violated the Laboratory Certification regulations by:
- Performing careless and inaccurate reporting of analytical measurements;
- Engaging in unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices;
- Performing, reporting, or failing to report drinking water analyses in a manner that threatened public health; and
- Making false, inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading statements in laboratory reports.
The final decision issued by Commissioner Suuberg also found that ETR could not have produced valid data because its results were neither technically sound nor legally defensible. The following MassDEP staffers conducted the investigation: DELS Director Pancorbo and Laboratory Certification Program Director Lisa Touet of the MassDEP Senator William X. Wall Experiment Station, and ESF Director Talbot, ESF Attorney Jennifer Davis, and ESF Investigators Stephen Spencer, Tim Dame, Jennifer Macionus, Mike Whiteside and Greg Levins.
MassDEP’s mission is to protect and enhance the Commonwealth’s natural resources – air, water and land – to provide for the health, safety and welfare of all people, and a clean and safe environment for future generations. In carrying out this mission, MassDEP commits to address and advance environmental justice and equity for all people of the Commonwealth, provide meaningful, inclusive opportunities for people to participate in agency decisions that affect their lives and ensure a diverse workforce that reflects the communities served by the agency.