National Water Quality Laboratory

Monday February 26, 2024

Quality Assurance

Quality AssuranceThe NWQL assures the reliability, reproducibility, and high quality of its data and information through adherence to USGS Fundamental Science Practices for publications. The NWQL has an extensive Quality Management System (QMS) that defines internal quality system processes and requirements. The NWQL also develops and revises a wide variety of Standard Operating Practices to assure consistency and comparability in results over time. The use of comprehensive internal and external QA/QC (Quality Assurance and Quality Control) processes to monitor method and analyst performance insures that NWQL meets its commitment to publish high quality data of known and documented quality. External, independent oversight is provided by the USGS Branch of Quality Services as well as accrediting agencies such as the NELAC Institute.

The NWQL's Quality Assurance Section (QAS) provides oversight of all quality programs documented in the lab's comprehensive Quality Management System. The QAS coordinates the NWQL's internal and external QA/QC processes and performance testing. The QAS staff has expertise in modern analytical science that is leveraged with their quality systems expertise to provide a powerful and highly valued assessment of the NWQL's published results.

Laboratory Proficiency Testing: The NWQL demonstrates exceptional proficiency in testing for a wide range of constituents in various sample matrices by participating in inter-laboratory testing and certification programs administered by third-party agencies. The NWQL takes part in national and international proficiency testing studies coordinated by the following organizations: Environment and Climate Change Canada, New York State Department of Health for the Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP), and the USGS Branch of Quality Systems (BQS). Results of such studies offer an independent check of performance and capability while providing a means for laboratories to be uniformly evaluated. Proficiency testing results are posted on the NWQL's Public Web site at eval.shtml.

Certifications and External Audits. Since the early 1990s, the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) has promoted national standards for quality procedures that relate to laboratory certification. The NWQL has taken part in the NELAP process since 1995, and the NWQL's quality systems have been redesigned to comply with standards developed by The NELAC Institute (TNI). The NWQL is currently accredited through the States of New York, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. These standards apply to all NWQL procedures used to obtain analytical data of known quality, a thorough and complete Quality Assurance Manual, and on-site audits.

Consistency: Validating the consistency of analytical data nationwide is one goal of the NWQL's participation in the NELAP process. Consistent data lend credence to the data for all samples, whether collected in one place at one point in time or gathered as multiple samples at many locations and analyzed over years for use in developing long-term trends in water quality. The rigorous techniques and protocols used by USGS personnel in the collection of samples are essential to the success of NWQL in analyzing samples on-site. Quality Assured Supplies, proficiency testing, and two levels of chain-of-custody procedures to support regulatory needs of others.

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