Orange County Sanitation District becomes first to have nationally accredited municipal laboratory

By on October 31, 2017

Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) announced last week that they have become the first public agency in California to receive accreditation from the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Council’s (NELAC) and The NELAC Institute (TNI) by meeting TNI’s national standards.

OCSD has always been accredited by the state of California but last week’s national accreditation acknowledges the Fountain Valley-based sanitation district as the only municipal laboratory – out of 631 stated accredited laboratories in the state – to have received this distinction.

“Protecting the public health and the environment is at the core of OCSD’s existence. The nationally accredited program provides reassurance that we are in line with the most current standards. To be accredited at the national level, and to be the first public agency in California, is a testament to our commitment to the public. Our team of scientists, technicians and data analysts do an incredible job in helping keep the environment safe,” said OCSD Board Chairman Greg Sebourn, PLS.

Although TNI is already the sanitation industry standard in 13 other states, California began the process of revising its laboratory accreditation standards in 2014. Proposed new standards will be presented to the State Water Resources Control Board in 2018 and will be based on the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Council (TNI) standards.  Four other states are currently in the process of adopting these standards. While California’s accreditation standards are in transition, OCSD’s laboratory voluntarily began transitioning to the TNI standards for laboratory operations.

Accreditation is considered to be essential for the protection of public health and the environment. Laboratory tests are critical for the efficient control of wastewater treatment plants as well as for the ocean monitoring program requirements as part of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. OCSD conducts over 100,000 lab analyses per year. Wastewater laboratories provide much of the information needed to troubleshoot problems in the treatment process; a wastewater laboratory is one of the most valuable assets a wastewater operator can have.

“We are thrilled to achieve this accreditation, said Jim Colston, OCSD director of Environmental Services. To be accredited, quality control and quality assurance programs must be in place for all aspects of the laboratory operations. All facilities and equipment are tightly scrutinized to assure adequacy for intended applications. During this process our team passed two proficiency studies that TNI conducted on the first try! Both times we passed with a 100 percent.”

OCSD provides wastewater collection, treatment and recycling for some 2.6 million people in central and northwestern Orange County. The district has two operating facilities for wastewater treatment from residential, commercial and industrial sources.