HARRISBURG — The Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Free-Col Laboratories of Meadville, Crawford County, which requires the lab to pay a civil penalty of $30,000; replace the laboratory supervisor; and fund an independent review of the lab.
Free-Col provides testing and analytical support for a variety of clients who seek DEP permits and authorizations. DEP uses such reports from independent laboratories to make regulatory decisions.
“We rely on accredited, independent laboratories to help us make various decisions, which is why we must make sure they do their job correctly and thoroughly,” DEP Bureau of Laboratories Director Martina McGarvey said.
Free-Col is accredited under DEP’s National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program to test and analyze drinking water, non-potable water and a variety of soils, chemicals and liquids.
A DEP inspection in May 2011 found a number of violations, such as providing analysis outside of what the lab was accredited to do; improperly calculating analytical results; and not having sufficient corrective action protocols in place to address the violations.
As a result of DEP’s determination that these and other violations have not been addressed, Free-Col must comply with all terms of the agreement or face a $250-per-day fine, in addition to the $30,000 fine the lab has already been assessed. The lab has agreed to replace its laboratory supervisor within four months and, within six months, hire an independent third-party auditor to review the lab’s abilities to meet the conditions of its accreditation. Any issues the independent auditor’s report uncovers must be corrected within 120 days.