Panel proposes reforms to ELAP following review

Posted August 7, 2015
ELAP Expert Review Panel members, from left, Mitzi Miller, Jordan Adelson, David Speis, Stephen Arms and Lara Phelps discuss the status of California’s accreditation program for environmental laboratories during a meeting hosted by SCCWRP. The panel has recommended a series of reforms intended to improve the program.

A five-member advisory panel convened by SCCWRP to evaluate the state’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) has published a report outlining its Year 1 findings and recommendations, the culmination of a months-long review of the agency.

The ELAP Expert Review Panel described the program in its report as ineffective, financially challenged, and lacking credibility. But the panel also noted that ELAP’s newly installed management team has already made progress turning around the program.

Panel Chair Lara Phelps and SCCWRP Executive Director Steve Weisberg presented the report’s findings November 4 at a State Water Board meeting.

ELAP, established in 1998, is responsible for inspecting nearly 700 public-health and environmental testing laboratories across California, both public and private. The accrediting body plays a key role in protecting the integrity of environmental data on which the state bases its management decisions.

The panel issued five main recommendations for reforming the 25-person program:

  1. Install a comprehensive management system that holds employees accountable to clear performance criteria and standards
  2. Adopt a new set of prewritten accreditation standards by which labs are inspected
  3. Update the list of methodologies used by the program to conduct accreditation
  4. Invest in staff development opportunities and make use of third-party accreditors to resolve programmatic backlogs
  5. Build a rigorous communications plan with the program’s clients and reinvigorate the program’s technical advisory committees.

Despite the challenges, the panel said it has high hopes for the program’s future.

“If ELAP is successful in implementing the recommended reforms, the Panel believes ELAP can regain credibility, achieve financial sustainability, operate an accreditation process that the State and stakeholders can support, and reliably ensure that environmental and public health data being used in State decision-making are of known and documented quality,” the report concluded.

Over the past eight months, the panel hosted three public meetings, plus a webinar meeting, to gather information, input and perspectives from stakeholders.

The panel members intend to revisit the program in about a year to conduct a follow-up assessment.

For more information, contact Dr. Steve Weisberg.

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