The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a $600,000 penalty for the violations related to the lab in Southampton.
Eurofins QC said it inherited the data integrity problem when it bought QC Inc. in May 2015.
DEP discovered the issue in December 2016 during an audit of EQC’s whole effluent toxicity testing (WETT) results, which are used to determine compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations.
The lab’s accreditation expired in February 2017 and was not renewed.
Manager of aquatic toxicity lab manipulated data
The aquatic toxicology lab is a subset of Eurofins QC, which is accredited separately, and represents less than 1% of services including microbiology, organics, metals and wet chemistry testing
Testing reviewed in the audit found sample results that appeared to be photocopies of previous data sheets with minor edits made.
Patrick McDonnell, DEP secretary, said it relies on accredited, third-party labs to do testing and ensure regulated entities are complying with state laws and regulations.
“Falsifying records and mishandling samples undermines the trust that DEP places in labs like EQC, and we will not hesitate to penalize labs that do not meet our expectations.”
After being alerted EQC hired a third-party auditor to review records.
DEP said the audit found 'hundreds of cases of manipulated or falsified data' as well as 'hundreds of missing records' and cases where samples were mishandled.
EQC told FoodQualityNews that it cooperated with regulators to resolve the matter.
“Following a routine audit by DEP where potentially manipulated data was found, Eurofins QC conducted an internal quality assurance review and discovered that the manager of its aquatic toxicity laboratory had manipulated data, resulting in inaccuracies in some reported results," the firm said in a statement.
“That manager was terminated immediately in January 2017, at which point Eurofins QC notified DEP and engaged the services of an independent third-party expert to thoroughly audit past aquatic toxicity data records.”
Closure of former site and investment in new aquatic toxicity lab
EQC said data manipulation was confined to a small portion of the aquatic toxicology services.
“Shortly after discovery of the issue, Eurofins QC ceased operation of the aquatic toxicology laboratory, notified affected clients and worked with DEP to resolve the matter.
“Since closure of the former QC Inc. aquatic toxicity laboratory, Eurofins QC has hired a new laboratory director and staff and invested in a brand-new, state-of-the-art aquatic toxicity laboratory in Horsham, Pennsylvania, which is undergoing a stringent accreditation review process by DEP. The new aquatic toxicology laboratory is expected to open soon following a 14-month build-out and accreditation process.”
EQC has revamped the former QC Inc. quality assurance system, revised the data review process and improved data acquisition, handling and archiving processes.
“We take data quality issues like this seriously and sincerely apologize for failing to deliver the results our clients have come to expect from us. We truly regret this incident and its impact on our clients," it said.
”We remain confident that the action plan we deployed for the aquatic toxicity lab as a result of this case will ensure the highest level of quality and accuracy in the testing and data we provide.”