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State laboratory to suspend blood-alcohol testing

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is going to suspend blood-alcohol testing until further notice.

The suspension will start July 3, said Health Department spokesman Mark Salley.

The news comes just a few days before the head of the state health department is to step down amid criticism the department mishandled toxicology tests in criminal cases.

Chris Urbina announced his resignation resigned June 13.  Urbina said he want’s to pursue other interests.

An internal review of the state crime laboratory reportedly found that the supervisor overseeing the lab was often biased in favor of prosecutors.

The audit, conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, determined in March that Cynthia Burbach, the former supervisor of the state’s CDPHE lab, may have tampered with or even lied about forensic tests in court

Leading defense attorneys in Colorado have criticized details of the report and Urbina’s leadership.

A department spokesman said David Butcher, who directed the laboratory services division faulted in the report, will retire July 1. Burbach retired at the end of May, just before the negative report surfaced.

During the suspension, unprocessed specimens will be sent to an independent lab for processing, Salley said.

The lab is also going to retest about 800 blood-alcohol samples to verify the state lab’s results.

A national laboratory, AIT labs, will conduct the retesting. The 800 samples will be randomly selected and will be selected from results completed in the last 12 months.

Salley said the lab will continue to improve the lab with an audit by the Association of Public Health Laboratories and new training.

The state lab’s other services will continue including disease testing and water and air testing.