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W.Va. lab manager gets two years for faking results of coal discharge tests

A former manager of a West Virginia water testing laboratory was sentenced to two years in jail for his role in falsifying test results from coal mining operations.

John Brewer pleaded guilty in October 2016 to one count of violating the federal Clean Water Act by falsifying the dates on water samples collected by Appalachian Laboratories Inc.

Brewer stipulated in his plea agreement that the Appalachian employees he supervised regularly failed to collect the required two water samples per month from coal mine sites if they thought the samples would exceed the allowable limits for pollutants.

The employees would delay the sample collection until the water appeared clean enough to comply with the mines' permits, then backdate the samples to make it appear that they had been collected in the proper month. Brewer knew and approved of this, and sometimes backdated the samples himself.

At sentencing Jan. 18, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger said the crime was a serious one that undermined a key part of the nation's environmental protection program, put communities at risk and allowed companies to discharge excess pollution without fear of getting caught or facing any consequences, according to the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail.

Brewer originally was charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, mail fraud and making false statements, and faced up to 30 years of incarceration and a $1.5 million fine. Those charges were dismissed.