United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced February 25 that John Shelton, 47, received his sentence from U.S. District Judge Irene Berger. Last October, Shelton pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act.

According to Goodwin’s office, he admitted to acting with others to tamper with water samples, making 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,” the agency said. “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, between 2008 and 2013, he and other employees of Appalachian Labs failed to place samples on ice as required by law. Instead, he and the group kept them in their trucks all day, which compromised the samples’ integrity.

“They would place samples on ice inside coolers on known inspection days to give the appearance it was the regular practice,” Goodwin said.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division; prosecution was overseen by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blair Malkin and Larry Ellis.