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Press Release

Appalachian Labs employee sentenced in water quality scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

BECKLEY, W.Va. – United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that John W. Shelton, 47, of Daniels, West Virginia, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.

In October 2014, Shelton pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act. He admitted that he, and other employees, tampered with water samples to make them appear within permissible levels. He stated he diluted samples by adding distilled water, and substituted water samples from the “honeyhole,” named such because samples taken from that spot were always within permissible limits. Each time samples were diluted or water was substituted, Shelton allowed excessive pollutants to be discharged from mining operations into adjacent creeks and rivers.

Shelton also admitted that from 2008-2013, he and other Appalachian Laboratory employees failed to place samples on ice as required by law, and instead kept them in their trucks all day, compromising the integrity of the samples. They would  place samples on ice inside coolers on known inspection days to give the appearance it was the regular practice.

United States District Judge Irene C. Berger imposed the sentence.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. Assistant United States Attorney Blair L. Malkin and Larry R. Ellis handled the prosecution.


Updated January 8, 2016