The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thorstensen Lab in hot water

The former owner of the Westford water testing firm Thorstensen Laboratory, Michael Carlson, was indicted last week on 50 counts of falsifying reports to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), according to a June 9 press release by the state Attorney General’s Office. The falsified reports related to several Massachusetts towns, including Carlisle. The indictments resulted from a state Environmental Crimes Strike Force investigation following an unannounced inspection of the laboratory by the DEP Laboratory Certification Program in December 2008.

Carlisle has used Thorstensen Laboratory to perform water tests, said Board of Health (BOH) Agent Linda Fantasia, but the town stopped last year, when the firm lost state certification of testing for public water supplies. While Carlisle does not have a municipal water supply, there are several wells that qualify under state regulations as “public water supplies” because they serve 25 or more people for at least 60 days in a year. Examples include wells at the Carlisle School, Gleason Library, Town Hall and the three churches. Public water supplies must be monitored regularly and test results sent to the state.

Fantasia said that the town learned of the problem with Thorstensen Lab gradually, when the state began saying the lab was not filing copies of reports with the DEP. Since the BOH knew the water samples had been drawn and sent to the lab, it was assumed at first that clerical errors were to blame. Carlisle’s public water supply monitoring is now performed by other companies.

The BOH has also used Thorstensen in the board’s bi-annual program of voluntary private well testing. However, Fantasia said that the firm was used only once during the last decade and overall “the results from the town-wide testing are pretty dependable.”

At this point, it is not known how many tests may have been conducted improperly. Fantasia said, “Many people have worked with that lab for many years.” If any homeowners have concerns about past test results, she suggested they retest their water using a different firm.

Other water-testing firms the town has worked with include Microbac, Nashoba Analytical and Matrix Analytical. While she said that the BOH does not recommend specific water-testing laboratories, she pointed out that a list of certified firms can be found on the DEP web site: (www.mass.gov/dep/service/compliance/wespub02.htm). More information on well-testing is available on the BOH web site: (www.carlislema.gov/Pages/CarlisleMA_Health/well).∆


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