Who certifies labs?
Laboratory certification can be done either by the EPA or the state primacy agency in that particular state. EPA has a National Exposure Research Laboratory based in Cincinnati, Ohio (NERL-Ci) that certifies EPA regional laboratories for chemistry
and microbiology. The National Exposure Research Laboratory in Las Vegas (NERL-LV)
has the responsibility for certifying labs in radiochemistry.
EPA has designated regional certification officers who are responsible for the certification
of the principal state laboratory in each state. Each state also is required to maintain
a list of certified labs. How do labs become certified? Laboratory certification is a long and intricate process, involving several levels of supervision by different agencies. EPA’s
Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW) and Office of Research and
Development (ORD) are jointly responsible for implementing the certification program
for laboratories that analyze drinking water samples at the national level. They oversee
the certification programs of EPA regions. Each EPA region, in turn, oversees the certification programs in the states. States are required to establish and maintain a state
program for the certification of laboratories conducting analyses of drinking water.
They must designate a certification officer, certified by the EPA, as the person responsible for the certification program. States are responsible for the certification of the public and private laboratories in their state. So, NERL-Ci and NERL-LV are responsible for certifying the regional laboratories, the regions are responsible for certifying their state laboratories, and the states are responsible for certifying
How does the program operate?
The OGWDW and the EPA regions conduct an onsite audit once every three years. They
evaluate the labs based on criteria such as equipment, adherence to standard procedures, program’s scope, staffing, resources, policy, procedures, effectiveness, training and experience of personnel, and using performance evaluation (PE) samples. These audits are conducted for each regional laboratory for chemistry and microbiology and principle state laboratories for radiochemistry. In the years in which there is no audit, the labs are surveyed using questionnaires.
What are the requirements?
To be classified as a certified laboratory, regional laboratories must successfully analyze
a set of performance evaluation samples (PEs) at least annually for all regulated contaminants for which they wish to be certified. Labs also must pass an onsite
evaluation at least once every three years. Once a year, principal state laboratories
must successfully analyze a complete set of unknown PE samples from a source
acceptable to the region for the contaminants included in the regulations that the
state has adopted. The OGWDW and ORD prepare and distribute PE samples for regulated chemical, microbiological, and radiological contaminants
semiannually and evaluate and distribute the results of these studies. Each of the
EPA regions performs an annual review of state certification programs and performance
evaluation results and monitors the adequacy of state programs for certifying laboratories.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1997. Manual for the
Certification of Laboratories Analyzing Drinking Water.