Any company that is relying solely on environmental tests performed by Intertek Testing Services Environmental Laboratories Inc. (ITS-ENV), is leaning on a broken reed, according to a spokesperson for EPA''s Enforcement Office.
"Any decision based on sampling analysis done solely by ITS, is a candidate for re-testing and re-analysis," said the spokesperson.
Last month, 13 former employees of the Richardson, Texas, laboratory were indicted by a federal grand jury in Dallas and charged with up to 30 counts of fraud and lying to the government.
Thousands of soil, water, and air samples performed by Intertek at Superfund locations, landfills, and other hazardous waste sites will have to be repeated because the company falsified the results, according to federal authorities.
EPA itself is in the process of reviewing previous contracts, according to the spokesperson.
Even though the agency never used Intertek as a primary contractor, it may have relied on data from the company through subcontracts.
Even though no one from Intertek has yet been convicted of criminal wrongdoing, EPA recommends private companies review their contracts do assure they are not relying on potentially fraudulent data..
"If in the course of an inspection a company is found to be out of compliance with EPA regulations, the defense that ''someone gave us bad data'' is not acceptable," warned the enforcement office spokesperson.
This holds true for compliance with state as well as federal environmental regulations.
EPA is not sure how many sites are affected by the unreliable data, but officials estimate no more than 1,000 sites are involved. The company performed more than 59,000 sample projects from 1994 to 1997 when most of the phony tests occurred.
Martin Dale Jeffus, of Greenville Texas, the most senior Intertek official indicted, faces as much as 155 years in prison and a $7.5 million fine if convicted on all counts, prosecutors said.
EPA and the Department of Justice come down hard on data fraud because it is so hard to detect, said the EPA spokesperson.
by James Nash