State Water Board Provides Update on Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program

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From the State Water Board’s March 2017 newsletter

Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) Reforms

ELAP has developed a Work Plan to implement the Expert Review Panel’s recommendations. It targets the five programmatic areas that were recognized as critical elements in reform efforts: • Establish a Management System • Adopt a Laboratory Accreditation Standard • Ensure Use of Relevant Methods • Expand Resources • Enhance Communication

ELAP is committed to reforming the program through these five initiatives to deliver a top laboratory accreditation program to its internal and external stakeholders. This section contains a summary of recent progress made on each program area.

ADOPT A MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

ELAP completed work drafting the components of its quality management system, including Standard Operating Procedures and program Quality Assurance Manual. ELAP has established procedures consistent with the standards identified in The NELAC Institute, Volume 2, General Requirements for Accreditation Bodies Accrediting Environmental Laboratories (2009). The standardization of ELAP’s processes is aimed at increasing efficiency and staff accountability. The management system is in early stages of implementation and ELAP anticipates identifying revisions moving forward.

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Encina’s laboratory is State Water Board ELAP approved.

ADOPT A LABORATORY ACCREDITATION STANDARD

ELAP presented its recommendation to develop regulations incorporating the 2016 NELAC Institute (TNI) Standard, Volume 1: Management and Technical Requirements for Laboratories Performing Environmental Analysis at a State Water Board Public Workshop on October 6, 2016. ELAP proposed working with both of its advisory bodies

(the Environmental Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee and the State Agency Partners Committee) and the stakeholder community to consider revising sections of the standard that may be problematic for implementation by California laboratories.

ELAP arrived at this recommendation after a stakeholder outreach period and with input from both program advisory committees. This process was undertaken in response to Expert Review Panel finding that ELAP’s current laboratory accreditation standard is not clearly written, auditable, enforceable, or relevant to the intended use of produced data, which has resulted in inconsistent laboratory assessments.

The process to identify modifications to the TNI Standard is underway and ELAP presented its determinations to the Expert Review Panel on January 31st. The modifications will be finalized following input from the Panel and discussed with the community during a series of regulations workshops during Spring 2017, where there will be the opportunity to have input on the standard before regulations are finalized.

ENSURE USE OF RELEVANT ANALYTICAL METHODS

ELAP has updated its Drinking Water and Wastewater Fields of Testing and is verifying their content with the State Agency Partners whose programs are served by the laboratories before public release. Hazardous waste lists are still under development. ELAP is planning to exclude references to specific methods in its new regulations, which will allow the program to easily update FOT lists as State Agency Partner needs change.

EXPAND RESOURCES

The State Water Board is investing $1.5 million dollars in creating the country’s top environmental laboratory assessor training program. Assessors from a third-party assessment firm will train ELAP staff on analytical methods and assessment skills in both a classroom setting and during laboratory assessments. ELAP staff will shadow the professional assessors during the beginning of the contract, and then the professional assessors will shadow ELAP staff to observe and critique them. The contract was released in December 2016 and is expected to be awarded to a firm in March 2017.

The firm will begin assessing California Drinking Water laboratories in Spring of 2017. These assessments may not necessarily coincide with the submission of an application or the expiration of a laboratory’s certificate. This is also an opportunity for laboratories to have a professional assessor evaluate any new TNI requirements they have implemented and get feedback without those requirements being enforced.

ENHANCE COMMUNICATION

ELAP worked with the Water Board’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Web Support Groups to launch a revamped webpage that includes a GIS Map of ELAP-certified laboratories. ELAP has also established several avenues through which stakeholders can communicate directly with the program via email.

elapca@waterboards.ca.gov – For submission of applications and general administrative or accreditation questions

elapca_pt@waterboards.ca.gov – For submission of proficiency testing reports and questions

elapca_comments@waterboards.ca.gov – For comments regarding any reform initiatives or program policies (for example, comments on TNI Standard modifications or regulations development)

elapca_technical@waterboards.ca.gov – For technical questions about laboratory operations, instrumentation, and analytical test methods


EXPERT REVIEW PANEL

The ELAP Expert Review Panel reconvened at the Southern Coastal California Water Research Project in Costa Mesa, CA from January 31, 2017 – February 2, 2017 to review the program’s progress on its initial recommendations. They will author a second report assessing ELAP’s success in implementing reform initiatives and add any further recommendations they identify. Copies of the meeting presentations and a recording can be found on the facilitating agency’s webpage at www.sccwrp.org/elap.

About the Author

Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP)

State Water Boardhttp://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/labs

ELAP provides evaluation and accreditation of environmental testing laboratories to ensure the quality of analytical data used for regulatory purposes to meet the requirements of the State's drinking water, wastewater, shellfish, food, and hazardous waste programs.

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