The nation has long suffered from the inefficiencies and inconsistencies of the current multiple environmental laboratory accreditation programs. In the 1970's, EPA set minimum standards for a drinking water certification program. The drinking water program was adopted by the states and augmented with varying state requirements. Many states expanded the drinking water accreditation program to cover other areas such as hazardous waste and waste water. All of these programs developed more or less independently with little coordination. This resulted in a patchwork of accreditation programs that had varying degrees of rigor, burdened laboratories conducting interstate commerce due to the need for multiple accreditation, and was unrecognized in the global market.
Recognizing the need for a new and better way to do "business", EPA established the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference (NELAC) in 1995 to address this nation-wide problem. NELAC is a voluntary program to develop consensus national standards for environmental laboratory accreditation. The states adopt the standards for use in their jurisdiction and assume the primary responsibility for implementation. Through careful coordination of the Agency's objectives, the states' needs, and the vast experience of the laboratories and regulated community, NELAC is providing a common sense approach to resolving the differences in the existing state accreditation programs.
The NELAC process includes all the stakeholders: states; federal agencies; local governments; Indian tribes; the regulated industry and the laboratories that service them; environmental interest groups, etc. The various committees and meetings in NELAC create a continual feedback loop to assure that the standards are reflective of the changing technologies and regulations, as well as incorporating improvements. In addition, EPA identified early on that an adjunct to NELAC was needed and formed the Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB), a federal advisory committee. ELAB provides essential consensus comments from the private sector.
EPA's role in facilitation and oversight is one of the key elements to the smooth functioning of NELAC. EPA organizes and coordinates the activities of NELAC, providing a needed infrastructure. EPA also ensures the uniformity of application of the standards through oversight of the state programs. Lastly, EPA serves as the accreditor of the principle state laboratories.
The service being rendered to the nation by NELAC is widely recognized and appreciated. Based on EPA's traditional role of command and control, the states and the private sector were originally wary of the process and suspicious of EPA's motives. As NELAC unfolded, it was clear that input from all sectors was welcomed and that the open meetings assured a free flow of information. In a little more than three years, NELAC has grown from a concept into a program that is in place in 12 states - on a voluntary basis - because it simply makes good sense and good economics. The success of NELAC can now be measured by the trust and confidence that all members have in the process, the support generated throughout the states and the private sector, and the rapid progress that has been made.
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY ACCREDITATION CONFERENCE; CONSTITUTION, BYLAWS AND STANDARDS: APPROVED MAY 25, 2001
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY ACCREDITATION CONFERENCE; CONSTITUTION, BYLAWS AND STANDARDS: APPROVED MAY 25, 200163318DOCUMENT1.0A PRODUCT OF THE PROJECTREVIEWEDPUBLICORDNERL
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY ACCREDITATION CONFERENCE (NELAC): CONSTITUTION, BYLAWS, AND STANDARDS
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY ACCREDITATION CONFERENCE (NELAC): CONSTITUTION, BYLAWS, AND STANDARDS75938DOCUMENT1.0A PRODUCT OF THE PROJECTREVIEWEDPUBLICORDNERL
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY ACCREDITATION CONFERENCE, BY LAWS, AND STANDARDS
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY ACCREDITATION CONFERENCE, BY LAWS, AND STANDARDS63383DOCUMENT1.0A PRODUCT OF THE PROJECTREVIEWEDPUBLICORDNERL
- NELAP has 12 state programs that have an operational program. Those 12 state programs have accredited over 950 laboratories in nearly 45 states and have recognized over 200 laboratories through reciprocity.
- The 2001 NELAC standards have been published.
- EPA has completed an application to become an accrediting authority and has responded to the first list of deficiencies.
- Several national meetings have been held since October 1999
1) NELAC Interim Meeting 5i December 1999
2) NELAC Annual Meeting 6, June 2000
3) NELAC Interim Meeting 6i, November 2000
4) NELAC Annual Meeting 7, May 2001
5) NELAC Interim Meeting 7i, December 2001
6) NELAC Annual Meeting 8, July 2002
7) NELAC Interim Meeting 8i, scheduled for November 2002 in Santa Fe, NM.
NELAC has initiated a restructuring effort with the goal of making NELAC more fiscally self-sufficient and to give the private sector a greater say in the standards development process. Inputs for the restructuring effort have been asked of or are being developed by: (1) ELAB, (2) NELAC Transition committee, (3) NELAC Program Policy and Structure committee, and (4) an independent contractor. Recommendations for a new structure should be forthcoming by the end of CY02.
The NELAC database is nearing completion. Final programming is being completed and programming deficiencies are being recognized and fixed. Beta testing for the database should begin in the next 6 months.
Laboratory accreditation is a significant tool in assuring the quality of environmental data. Rigorous and uniform standards assure consistency and comparability of data across programs and Regions. Customer needs have been thoroughly addressed with the inclusion of all sectors of the environmental community . Communication through a readily available website assures that each customer can obtain any or all of the documents and information developed by NELAC. In addition, the accrediting authorities communicate directly with the laboratories.
The NELAP is being conduced in support of ORD's 2001 Strategic Goal #1 - Support the Agency's Mission. Specifically, Goal # 1.2 - Proactively lead EPA's effort to ensure that sound science is synthesized, integrated, and communicated in a form that supports effective environmental decision-making by EPA and its stakeholders - is the primary goal of the NELAP. Through the development of uniform consensus standards for laboratory accreditation (in conjunction with Federal, State, Local, and Indian tribal governments as well as the regulated community and environmental groups across the U.S.), the NELAP program involves all appropriate parties, effectively communicates the results via hardcopy and the NELAC website, continues to provide the most recent and updated versions of NELAC-related documents, and sponsors national meetings and training workshops in which the Regions, states, and regulated community actively participate. The NELAP also supports Goal #1.3 - Provide technical assistance and regulatory support that meet the immediate needs of the program and regional offices - through the development of uniform standards required for certification, auditing of environmental laboratories, and certification of the accredited laboratories to support efforts being undertaken in the Office of Water.
Office of Water; Regions, States