Confidential Consultation

January 29, 1998 — The Press Democrat

National Environmental Testing, Inc., and two associated companies have agreed to pay more than $320,100 to the government to settle claims the former Santa Rosa office filed misleading test reports about the amount of hazardous substances at military bases in Northern California.

The companies, which include National Environmental Testing Midwest and Ocean Cory plc, did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the settlement, approved Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Officials at the Illinois headquarters of National Environmental Testing, Inc. could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa office of National Environmental Testing was sold earlier this year to Legend Analytical Services and no longer has a relationship to the Illinois company, said Paul Scott, one of the attorneys in the lawsuit.

Prior to the filing of the 1996 lawsuit, the Santa Rosa lab had contracted with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to test water and soil samples for hazardous substances in federal Superfund sites and military installations, including Hunters Point Shipyard and the Presidio in San Francisco.

The lab was responsible for detecting whether hazardous waste such as benzene and toluene remained after cleanup efforts at the sites. The testing included preparation of chromatograms, which are graphs reflecting the amounts of the toxins in the soil and the water samples.

In March 1996, former lab manager Thomas Cullen Jr. filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming laboratory employees did not measure the amount of toxins shown on the chromatograms, but simply eyeballed them and guessed how high or low the levels were.

The employees then represented to the government they had conducted their work properly, the lawsuit alleged.

“The result was the government was misled as to the amounts of potentially dangerous contaminants in the samples,” said Scott, who represented Cullen. “Rather than using scientifically reliable methods, they were guessing at the amounts in order to save time, effort, and money.”

The lawsuit called into question the accuracy of some $5 million worth of tests paid for by the EPA and the Department of Defense. As the lawsuit proceeded, attorneys from the Department of Justice in San Francisco and in Washington, D.C. joined in the investigation.

With the settlement, Cullen, who now lives in New Jersey, will receive $62,000 and attorney’s fees for revealing the allegedly improper practices.

The EPA suspended the Santa Rosa lab from work on Federal government contracts when the lawsuit was filed, but later lifted the ban three months later after National Environmental Testing Midwest agreed to give the EPA oversight of the facility.

Please be advised that this website is an information resource and is not intended to provide legal advice in your particular case.  We would be pleased to conduct a confidential review of your potential claim, but by doing so we are not agreeing to act as your counsel.  A written agreement between you and the Law Offices of Paul D. Scott is prerequisite to representation.  Past successes by the firm do not guarantee future results.


640 Washington Street, San Francisco, California 94111