East Syracuse lab admits falsifying water, soil tests through backdating

East Syracuse lab admits falsifying water, soil tests through backdating by John O’Brien, July 17, 2013, The Post Standard
An East Syracuse laboratory today admitted that for three years it falsified chemical tests on water and soil that it performed for 31 clients, including more than a dozen public entities.
Upstate Laboratories Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud, admitting its employees regularly backdated the quality tests on samples of water and soil in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The company admitted backdating more than 3,300 samples, knowing the results may have been inaccurate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Benedict said. Among the victims were the town of Camillus, the Oswego County health department, the state Department of Transportation, the town of Moravia, the town of Oswego and the Madison County Department of Solid Waste, according to the company’s plea agreement. Many of the tests were related to landfills, to see if contaminants had leached into nearby streams, Benedict said. “It’s impossible to go back and figure out whether the samples were problematic,” he said. The company had a computer program that automatically showed the samples were tested within time frames required by federal regulations, even when they were not, Benedict said. If a sample isn’t tested within the required “hold time,” the result might show no contaminants even where there had been some, he said. The federal Environmental Protection Agency notified the victims of the potentially inaccurate test results, and many of them expressed concern, said Michael Fiore, a special agent with the EPA’s Office of Inspector General. The company pleaded guilty to the felony through its lawyer, William Dreyer. Under the plea, it will be placed on five years’ probation and pay a $150,000 fine. The company must also pay restitution to the victims in an amount to be determined by U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 4. The backdating scheme was known not only by lower-level employees, but by supervisors at the company, Dreyer said. It was done because Upstate Laboratories wanted to make more money through a higher volume of tests, Benedict said. “And they did not have the size or capacity to do what they promised to do,” he said. Water samples typically require a test to be done sooner than on soil samples, he said. In September 2010, EPA agents executed a search warrant at the company’s offices at 6034 Corporate Drive. They seized records and interviewed many of the 70 employees.
The company’s owner, Tony Scala, told The Post-Standard then that that he suspected a fired chemist had complained to the EPA. Scala could not be reached for comment today.
Benedict confirmed the investigation began with a complaint from a former employee who blew the whistle on the backdated tests. Upstate Laboratories had its certification revoked in February by the state Health Department, Dreyer said. The company went out of business in May, he said. Here are the 31 victims:
Village of Moravia
Two Guys From Italy Pizza Restaurant, West Monroe
Town of Camillus
Steuben County Division of Solid Waste
Oswego County Department of Health
Oswego County Department of Solid Waste
Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District
Liquid Products LLC of Waterloo
Hanson Aggregates New York LLC of Poland, NY
Casella Waste Systems via On-Site Technical Services Inc., of Wellsville
A&P Water Testing of Morrisville
Wolcott Landfill
New York State Department of Transportation, Region 7
Hannibal Hills Trailer Park, Hannibal
Ontario County Recycling and Landfill Management
Fulton County Department of Solid Waste
Barton and Loguidice, Liverpool
Oswego Heat Treating Inc.
Town of Oswego
Agro-Farm Inc., Norwich
Tri-Boro Municipal Authority, Susquehanna, Pa.
Village of Endicott
Sullivan County Department of Public Works
Fagan Engineers via Franklin County
Applied Testing and Geosciences, Bridgeport, Pa.
City of Tonawanda
Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority, Utica
Town of Lumberland, NY
Madison County Department of Solid Waste
Kerry Bio-Science of Rochester, Minn.
Ameresco Inc. [Emphasis added]

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