A Kenner woman received probation Thursday after an investigation revealed her company falsified pollution reports for oil and gas companies working in the Gulf of Mexico over a period of four years.
Martha Hebert, 64, was sentenced to two years of probation and a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to misprision of a felony — essentially, hiding information about a crime — in federal court in January after investigators with the Environmental Protection Agency and FBI found evidence her company had been submitting false reports.
In addition, Hebert is prohibited from conducting the kind of testing her company engaged in for five years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hebert was co-owner of Laboratory Technology in Kenner, which performed toxicity tests on water discharged by oil and gas operations in the Gulf, according to court documents.
The company was shut down in March, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The reports produced by Laboratory Technology are required by the EPA and are used to determine whether oil and gas companies are abiding by the conditions of their permits, according to court documents. The company’s lab supervisor, Leonard Johnson, submitted false reports from July 2008 until June 15, 2012, according to the documents.
In preparing the reports, Johnson did not conduct a required test that involves putting shrimp and minnows in the water and seeing if they gain weight during a specified period of time, according to court documents.
Gaining weight is an indication the water is within the permitted toxicity limits; if the animals lose weight or die, it would indicate the water is not within those limits.
Such tests would have been impossible for Laboratory Technology because its scale was broken, according to the documents.
Instead, Johnson instructed lab employees and Hebert to enter false weights on the reports and then signed off on them, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hebert was charged because she knew the test results were false and did not alert authorities, the office said.
It’s not clear from the court record which oil and gas companies used the lab’s services or how many false reports were submitted. The charges in the cases against Hebert and Johnson also do not say whether the companies knew the reports were false.
Johnson pleaded guilty to a felony count of violating the Clean Water Act in January and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.