CWEA Comments on new ELAP Regulations: ‘Cost of Compliance is Prohibitive for Small Municipal Labs’

December 20, 2019

Ms. Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street, 24th floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Comments – Proposed Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Regulations

Dear Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel:

The California Water Environment Association (CWEA) is a non-profit public-benefit organization of water professionals dedicated to education and certification of over10,400[1] members who work in all aspects of wastewater treatment, regulations, and environmental protection. As part of its mission, CWEA provides training programs and validated technical certification of competency to qualified wastewater professionals in a variety of specialties, including laboratory analysts. We currently have 850 individuals holding CWEA Laboratory Analyst certifications and we support a very active and engaged Laboratory Committee.  CWEA has taken the lead in localized training in the TNI 2016 Standard[2], recently hosting over 30 training sessions, as well as working with industry professionals from diverse industry affiliations to create and propose an alternate standard that is more appropriate for all laboratories (labs) in California to achieve.

CWEA appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the ELAP Regulations Package released for public review and comment on 11 October 2019. Many of CWEA’s members are also members of other wastewater associations including the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA).  In an effort to avoid duplication of commentary, CWEA has reviewed and fully supports all comments presented in the “ACWA and CMUA – Comments on Proposed ELAP Regulations” letter, dated December 20, 2019. CWEA’s specific additional comments are included herein.

CWEA comments – In reviewing the ELAP Regulations Package, we identified several problematic issues that need to be addressed, including:

  • Cost of Compliance versus protection of public health: The cost of compliance to the TNI 2016 Standard with 2 exceptions will be prohibitive for many of the small municipal labs currently accredited by the ELAP program.  The additional record-keeping and paperwork required, not correlated to methodology or data quality, will exceed the resources of small labs. Although costs estimated by ELAP in the Initial Statement of Reason (ISOR) are underestimated, they still exceed the resources available to small facilities that need to remain accredited.  As a consequence, some treatment plants will be forced to drop their lab certifications rather than adopt the new regulations and contract work out to commercial labs that may or may not be in the region.  The closure of these small labs will negatively effect on our the water environment profession as follows: 1) Commercial labs do not report results as quickly as on-site labs, which will be delay staff response, resulting in a greater risk to the waters of the United States, and thus, public health, and 2) A reduced number of certified labs will negatively affect ELAP’s budget, causing ELAP to increase fees, resulting in difficult trade-offs for municipalities regarding allocation of limited resources.
  • Article 2, §648010 Fields of Accreditation: Section e) states that Fields of Accreditation (FoA) tables are published on the ELAP website and updated, as needed, by ELAP staff. With fees being tied to Fields of Accreditation, ELAP should not be able to update the FoA’s without due process.  Doing so would constitute a regulation that was not subject to due diligence.
  • Article 2, §648025 Accreditation Fees: The fee structure as proposed by ELAP is not equitable.  Smaller labs pay a higher proportion, with no provision for adjustment to the required level of service.  To propose one equal assessment fee, regardless of the size of the laboratory, does not follow the “fee for service” regulation.  In the last four years ELAP fees have more than doubled, yet services from ELAP have decreased.  The accreditation fees do not adjust to the sophistication level of the laboratory.  As California faces new water quality challenges, ELAP should not develop a fee structure that would require additional third-party assessment costs to be paid by the laboratory community, rather the technical assessment should be included in the fees paid directly to ELAP.
  • Article 5, §648100 (h) “ Designation of a Principal Analyst”  in the proposed regulations, the qualification requirements do not recognize AWWA or CWEA certification at the level equivalent to the method being performed.  With Laboratory Analysts certification qualifies professionals to serve as managers, therefore, these certifications should be sufficient to meet the qualifications for Principal Analysts.
  • CWEA respectfully suggests the Water Board listen to the regulated laboratory community. With over 600 accredited labs in CA, adopting an accreditation standard designed to regulate commercial laboratories interested in doing interstate commerce is not in the best interest of all California laboratories.  CWEA representatives worked hard with other industry professionals to propose an alternate quality management system (the CA QMS) that maintains a high level of data quality without requiring unnecessary documentation.  These alternative regulations approved by the Environmental Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee, yet not considered by ELAP staff.  Again, we ask you to please consider the suggestions provided by the regulated community. We want a program that will improve labs and help ELAP audit them. The program must be cost – benefit justified to prevent unintentional harm to the water environment. TNI 2016 needs substantial modifications to support an open, inclusive, and transparent process that is responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

Kevin Calderwood

CWEA President

Mindy Boele

Chair, CWEA Lab Committee

[1] CWEA had 10,418 members as of 9/31/19.

[2] The NELAC Institute is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to foster the generation of environmental data of known and documented quality through an open, inclusive, and transparent process that is responsive to the needs of the community.  Started November 6, 2006.

Download a PDF version of our letter (pdf)


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