Environmental Testing Laboratories

COVID-19 Emergency Response Information

The information on this webpage is based on the latest statewide and national directives in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) will be regularly updating this information, so please continue to visit this webpage for the latest information or contact laboratories and businesses directly for their current status of operations.

ELAP is determined to provide the information and support required for environmental testing laboratories to continue operations and provide testing services to help regulatory agencies make important public health decisions during this emergency.

Laboratories fall under “essential” exception to shelter-in-place orders

Environmental testing laboratories are considered essential to public health and environmental safety during the COVID-19 emergency and are within the essential activities excepted from the shelter-in-place directives provided by local public health officials.

How to Respond to a Confirmed Case of Coronavirus (COVID 19) in the Laboratory

To ensure continuity of operations for critical infrastructure, which includes environmental laboratories, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that essential workers may be allowed to continue working following potential exposure to coronavirus, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. The CDC recommendations for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure to COVID-19 include:

  • Pre-screen employees
  • Monitoring for symptoms regularly
  • Wear a mask
  • Practice social distancing
  • Disinfect and clean workspaces

The entirety of the CDC guidelines for workers who may have had exposure to COVID-19 can be found here.

If the laboratory has a confirmed COVID19 case, contact your public health officer to formulate a plan immediately. If your plan includes laboratory closure or suspension of services, please follow the steps outlined in the next section titled “Actions to take if your laboratory has to close or end services.”

Additional steps that may be taken to prevent further exposure to COVID-19:

  • Stagger staffing and keep each group isolated from the other (do not mix shifts/groups).
  • Obey all orders from public health officials for your community.
  • Regularly disinfect the lab and all work areas before and after each shift. See the CDC’s guidance on disinfecting facilities.

Actions to take if your laboratory has to close or end services

If you must close your laboratory or suspend essential services due to adverse effects from the COVID-19 emergency, please contact ELAP at: elapca@waterboards.ca.gov immediately to notify us of the effective date of the closure or suspension of services.

You must also notify your clients or appropriate regulatory agency that you will no longer provide testing services, and ELAP can assist you or your clients in finding a laboratory with capacity to meet testing needs.

Laboratories accepting additional samples

These laboratories have capacity to take in additional samples during the COVID-19 emergency:

LABORATORIES WITH EMERGENCY CAPACITY (Excel) (Updated 04/17/20)

Note: Please contact ELAP at: elapca@waterboards.ca.gov if you want to be added or removed from this list.

What to Do Before Sending Laboratory Samples:

  1. Contact the Laboratory: make sure the laboratory is still providing testing services. Do not just send samples or drop off samples at the laboratory without contacting the laboratory first. Many laboratories have modified operations and may have alternative ways for laboratories or clients to send or drop off samples. Additionally, laboratories may have drop off locations for samples that are different than the laboratory address.
  2. Confirm Accreditation: environmental laboratories are offering services during the coronavirus pandemic, so if the samples are for regulatory purposes, please confirm the laboratory is accredited by ELAP to provide the services requested.
  3. Be Proactive: Fill out chain of custodies and any information requested by the laboratory before dropping off the sample. Try to minimize prolonged interactions at the laboratory and practice social distancing. Some laboratories may have discontinued walk-ins or drop off services so confirm with the laboratory. 
  4. Consider Delays in Shipping: With the strain put on the logistics companies, delivery of samples may be delayed, so consider adding extra ice to shipments or consult with the laboratory regarding best practices during these times.   
  5. Be Understanding: All laboratories have been doing their best to continue operations during these stressful times, but staffing is short and these are abnormal operating conditions. With that in mind, normal response times and reporting of results from laboratories may be delayed.

Laboratory Equipment and Supply Vendors

ELAP advises laboratories to inventory their laboratory supplies and order supplies earlier than normal to account for delays. Supplies specific to combatting the coronavirus (e.g. gloves, disinfectant, alcohol, etc.) may be harder to obtain or have longer delays.

Click on the link below for the contact information and status of operations for laboratory equipment and supply vendors.

VENDOR INFORMATION (PDF) (Updated 07/09/2020)

Note: please contact ELAP at: elapca@waterboards.ca.gov with any suggested updates to this section.

NEW! Attention Water and Wastewater Agencies:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through a joint effort with the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the National Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA), is providing a limited supply of cloth facemasks to the California water and wastewater utilities/agencies. To receive cloth facemasks, register on the California WARN (CalWARN) webpage.

Proficiency Testing Providers (Last Updated 03/24/20)

The following PT providers will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. There are no scheduled delays in the PT studies or the delivery of PT samples.
Please contact your PT providers for the latest information.

Absolute Standards
800-368-1131
https://www.absolutestandards.com/

Advanced Analytical Solutions
304-422-4274
http://www.advancedqa.com/

ERA
303-431-8454
http://www.eraqc.com/

Millipore Sigma
307-742-5452
https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/

NSI Solutions
800-234-7837
https://www.nsilabsolutions.com/

Phenova
303-940-0033
https://www.phenova.com/

The following PT providers will be closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Department of Health Wadsworth Center:
518-474-7161
https://www.wadsworth.org/programs/ehs/pt

Note: please contact ELAP at: elapca@waterboards.ca.gov with any suggested updates to this section.

Frequently Asked Questions

For laboratories during the COVID-19 emergency.

Q: Are there any monitoring requirements that have been suspended?

A: Timely compliance by the regulated community with all orders and other regulatory requirements (including regulations, permits, contractual obligations, primacy delegations, and funding conditions) is generally considered to be within the essential activities, essential governmental functions, or comparable exceptions to shelter-in-place directives provided by local public health officials. Laboratories should contact their clients or the appropriate regulatory agency to receive specific guidance and direction on monitoring requirements.

If there is a specific order or regulatory requirement that cannot be timely met because it would be inconsistent with current governmental directives or guidelines related to COVID-19, the entity responsible for compliance with the order or regulatory requirement must notify the applicable regulatory agency immediately.

Q: Has the EPA modified the DMR-QA Study 40 timelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Yes, see the table below that provides the new milestones for DMR-QA Study 40.

Date Milestone
March 20, 2020 DMR-QA Study 40 begins, labs may begin ordering PT samples
May 29, 2020
(was April 24)
Address Verification Forms due to State DMR-QA Coordinator
October 2, 2020
(was July 2)
Study 40 ends. Labs: deadline to submit ungraded Data Report to PT Providers.
October 30, 2020
(was July 31)
PT Providers: deadline for sending graded results to labs
November 13, 2020
(was August 14)
Labs: deadline to send graded results to Permittees. For “Not Acceptable” results, labs to begin ordering retest samples as soon as possible
December 4, 2020
(was August 28)
Permittees: deadline to submit signed and completed Permittee Data Report Form to State DMR-QA Coordinator
Labs: send corrective action letter including any retest results as soon as possible to your Permittee, if applicable.
January 29, 2021
(was October 23, 2020)
Permittees: deadline to submit Corrective Action Report, including retest results, to State DMR-QA Coordinator

Q: What if my laboratory cannot make sample hold times due to the COVID-19 emergency?

A: If a laboratory misses the hold time (for whatever reason, including but not limited to COVID-19), the laboratory must notify their client and/or the appropriate regulator of the missed hold time immediately. Additionally, the results must be flagged so that the data user can evaluate against the data quality objectives and make an informed decision regarding the usability of the data.

Q: My courier service closed and I have no one to pull and deliver my client’s required samples for analysis in my laboratory. What do I do?

A: If a courier service has been suspended, try contacting a local laboratory from the list above (“Laboratories with Emergency Capacity”). Many laboratories also provide courier services and may be able to help sample and deliver samples to your laboratory during the emergency. If regulatory samples cannot be collected, contact your client and the appropriate regulator immediately to discuss options.

Q: Does ELAP have any recommendations if I need to reduce my staff due to the COVID-19 emergency?

A: The Laboratory Director and/or Quality Assurance Manager should identify potential problems in operations or impacts to laboratory quality if staffing is reduced. ELAP understands that laboratories have been reducing staff to prevent potential spread or exposure to the coronavirus. However, if the quality of data will be impacted and/or services must be discontinued because of staff reductions, then the laboratory must contact their clients or regulators to discuss options. Additionally, laboratories should be proactive and formulate action plans in the event that key staff can no longer come to the laboratory to perform testing or oversee laboratory operations. ELAP recommends cross training staff and identifying and preparing staff to assume key laboratory roles in the event of prolonged emergency conditions.

If a laboratory determines that samples need to be sent to a subcontract laboratory, then contact the laboratory identified as a subcontract laboratory in your Quality Manual or contact a laboratory from the list above (“Laboratories with Emergency Capacity”).

Q: What should I do if I am unable to submit my application to meet the 90-day requirement?

A: As soon as you suspect you will not be able to meet the deadline for submitting your renewal application 90 days prior to expiration of your current certificate, email ELAP at elapca@waterboards.ca.gov. Please let ELAP know which application requirements you are unable to meet and why.

Q: What if I can’t complete my annual quality manual review because of current limitations?

A: Let us know when you submit your application to elapca@waterboards.ca.gov that you were unable to complete the review, and the reason why. ELAP staff will work with you to determine an appropriate time frame to complete the review.

Q: Will ELAP process my application if it is incomplete?

A: ELAP understands laboratories are experiencing resource challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will provide support and offer alternatives, to the extent available, to get your application accepted. Early communication with ELAP is key.

Q: What if I can’t do my proficiency tests because my laboratory is short-staffed due to COVID-19 response conditions?

A: As soon as you suspect you may not be able to meet regulatory requirements to perform your regularly scheduled proficiency testing, contact ELAP at elapca@waterboards.ca.gov so that ELAP can assist you in creating a plan to meet the requirements.

Q: I haven't received my annual/renewal fee notice, how do I pay?

A: The Fee and Revenue Branch has temporarily suspended sending physical notices in the mail due to COVID-19. You can request an electronic version of the notice by e-mailing DAS-DrinkingWaterFees@waterboards.ca.gov.

Q: My laboratory is being adversely affected by the COVID-19, can my payment be delayed?

A: All fees are still due and payable. However, if your laboratory has been adversely affected then the Water Board will work with you to find possible solutions. Please e-mail the Fee and Revenue Branch at DAS-DrinkingWaterFees@waterboards.ca.gov and provide information about why you cannot pay your fees at this time.

Q: Will ELAP be delayed in issuing certificates?

A: ELAP does not expect delays in issuance of certificates of accreditation, and is taking all actions possible to ensure certificates do not expire. However, our ability to issue accreditation is dependent on timely receipt of your application. Failure to submit a complete application and related documents could result in delay. As noted above, if you suspect you will not be able to meet the deadline for submitting your renewal application 90 days prior to expiration of your current certificate, email us at elapca@waterboards.ca.gov. Please let us know which application requirements you are unable to meet and why.

Q: What if I disagree with a determination ELAP makes on my accreditation during the emergency?

A: If you have a question about the certificate or Accredited Fields of Testing that was issued to your laboratory, fill out the Accreditation Inquiry Form and submit it to elapca@waterboards.ca.gov. ELAP is suspending the requirement to submit it within 30 days of issuance of the accreditation. If your question is an inquiry that effects the laboratory’s ability to fulfill critical public health functions during the emergency, please explain so in the body of the email so that we may expedite your inquiry.

Q: ELAP isn’t sending hard copies of accreditation documents and certificates during the emergency. Will you send hard copies later?

A: ELAP is sending electronic copies of all accreditation documents by email to the laboratory, including the accreditation letter, Certificate of Accreditation, and Accredited Fields of Testing List. These are the official documents and can be printed by the laboratory for their records. ELAP will not be sending hard copies upon return to normal operations to those laboratories that received electronic copies during this time. However, if you would like a hard copy sent to your laboratory, you may request so once we have resumed that practice.

Q: Will on-site assessment procedures be changed to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

A: ELAP and Water Board contractor NV5/Dade Moeller, have ceased performing on-site assessments to protect the health of assessor staff and the public. All scheduled on-site assessments have been cancelled.

Q: The COVID-19 emergency resulted in the cancellation of my assessment. When will it be rescheduled? Will my certificate expire because ELAP didn’t conduct the assessment?

A: ELAP does not currently have a time frame for rescheduling assessments. However, ELAP will not allow certificates to expire because an assessment was unable to be performed due to the COVID-19 response.

Q: How will laboratories be evaluated in the absence of an on-site assessment?

A: ELAP is developing procedures for remote assessments, which was something previously recommended by the Expert Review Panel. Depending on the duration of the public health emergency, remote assessments could begin as early as this spring.

Q: We have a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) due to ELAP soon, but with the COVID-19 emergency we will not meet the deadline. Will ELAP extend the due date?

A: If you believe you will be unable to meet the due date of your CAP, email the contact information included in your On-Site Assessment Report as early as possible. ELAP would prefer that you submit an acceptable plan by the due date, and will consider accepting extended proposed time frames for addressing deficiencies if you provide an explanation why additional time is needed due to limitations caused by the COVID-19 emergency response.

Q: I have accreditation from another state accrediting body who is no longer conducting assessments. What happens to my certification with California?

A: ELAP will communicate with other state accrediting bodies on a case-by-case basis and will consider issuing interims if the laboratory’s assessment did not take place and the accreditation was not renewed due to COVID-19 response limitations.

Q: What is the status of the Proposed ELAP Regulations considering the postponement of the adoption hearing?

A: The State Water Resources Control Board meeting to consider adoption of the proposed ELAP regulations scheduled for March 17, 2020 was canceled, and the Board will vote on adoption at a future board meeting. ELAP will notify the community as soon as it has been rescheduled.

Contacting ELAP during COVID-19 Emergency

In response to the COVID-19 emergency, most Water Board staff have transitioned to telework. We remain available via email and voicemail and appreciate your patience during this transition. ELAP understands that these times represent abnormal working conditions for laboratories as well and that laboratories may have questions about accreditation status or meeting specific regulatory timelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Please review the FAQ section for the latest information.

If you cannot find information in the FAQ section, then refer to the best practices below for submitting emails to an ELAP inbox:

General Advice:

  • Include in your email a description of the problem or question. The more details we get the better we will be able to assist you.
  • Ensure that we have a way to contact you. Be sure to include a valid phone number (where we can get a hold of you while working from home).
  • Include the name, location, and certificate number of your laboratory. If you are not the laboratory director or primary contact for the laboratory, include your job title as well.
  • Allow ELAP staff additional time to respond. ELAP strives to provide a response as quickly as possible.

elapca@waterboards.ca.gov

  • This email box is for accreditation related inquiries.
  • Include the Acceditation Inquiry Request Form when submitting an inquiry regarding specific FOTs or methods missing from your laboratory’s scope of accreditation.


elapca_pt@waterboards.ca.gov

  • This email box for PT related inquiries.


elapca_technical@waterboards.ca.gov

  • This email box is for laboratory director changes, location changes and method implementation and interpretation assistance.
  • For method implementation or interpretation assistance, please include the method as identified on ELAP’s FOT forms and laboratory certificate.
    NOTE: American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL) has offered to provide expert laboratory assistance during the COVID-19 emergency crisis to answer method related or instrument related questions. Therefore, you may receive a response email or phone call from a laboratory within this network to answer your question and assist you.


elapca_comments@waterboards.ca.gov

  • This email box is for program reforms, proposals, and regulations development.