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Mine water testing lab wins stay, but status unclear

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Environmental Quality Board members granted Appalachian Laboratories’ motion for stay Wednesday after the Department of Environmental Protection revoked the lab’s certification to perform water testing at coal mines.

But the DEP said it will still not accept new data from the Beaver-based lab. DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said Wednesday afternoon that the DEP will still not accept new data processed by Appalachian Laboratories “because we cannot trust the accuracy of that data.”

It was unclear Wednesday afternoon whether the lab — and its 35 employees — would continue to operate, which seemed likely after the EQB granted the firm’s appeal.

“A big part of the Clean Water Act’s foundation is the self-reporting program and the reliance on independent testing laboratories to comply with the law,” Huffman said. “Once the integrity of that program is compromised, the entire fabric begins to break down. We can’t, and won’t, let that happen.”

The EQB heard evidence in the appeal Monday at DEP headquarters in Kanawha City.

The DEP revoked the certification because a former employee pleaded guilty in federal court to falsifying tests and documents relating to mine drainage. The plea agreement came after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that testing procedures were faked in order to supply “good samples” to the lab’s customers…

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