The NELAC Institute
The NELAC Institute (TNI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting "the generation of environmental data of known and documented quality through an open, inclusive, and transparent process that is responsive to the needs of the community." The founders' long-term motivation behind the creation of the NIC was to enact a "uniform, rigorous, and robust" nationwide environmental laboratory and monitoring accreditation program. This accreditation program exists today in the form of the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP).
The NELAC Institute (TNI) was formed on November 6, 2006 as a collaboration between the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference (NELAC) and the Institute for National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation (INELA) with "the vision that all entities generating environmental data in the United States be accredited to a national standard."
With the original 2003 NELAC Standard and 2005 updates to ISO/IEC 17025 as their guide, TNI continued work on revising the NELAC Standard, culminating in the release of its new standards in July 2011. The revisions both made ISO/IEC 17025 adherence mandatory and added analysis requirements for "five new contaminants and lower limits for existing contaminants."
National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program
NELAP is an accreditation program targeted at environmental laboratories. The laboratory and accreditation body standards for the program were originally modeled after sections of ISO/IEC 17025 and ISO/IEC 17011. Accreditation for NELAP is performed by U.S. state governmental agencies that wish to participate; control over scope, laboratory types accepted, and fees are all controlled by the state agency. As of April 2020[update], 15 agencies in 14 states are organized as NELAP accreditation bodies. Those states are Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. California used to also participate but withdrew from the program on January 31, 2014.
Environmental laboratories seeking NELAP accreditation are directed to go to their State's accreditation body. If the lab's state doesn't have such a body, the lab is still able to select an out-of-state body to do the accreditation for them. This sort of "reciprocal certification" has the disadvantage that the accredited lab will only be certified to test a certain subset of analytes and contaminants, specifically those chosen for coverage by the state's accreditation body. This requires labs to carefully select which state agency to go through. Once the application stage begins, labs go through a series of performance evaluation studies and on-site auditing as well as pay the necessary fees. Each state may vary its audit requirements for labs maintaining accreditation.
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