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June, 2013

Department of Defense: ARA’s Recent Audit

Federal Government programs often require the environmental laboratories they use to hold Department of Defense DoD ELAP and/or ISO/IEC 17025 accreditations. To become accredited to this standard, a laboratory must demonstrate the ability to operate in compliance with the “DoD Quality Systems Manual for Environmental Laboratories”. This is done by employing an appropriately qualified third party assessor to review all aspects of the laboratory’s operations, starting at sample receipt, including lab procedures, documentation & recordkeeping, right through to data archiving.  

Beginning with our initial DoD audit and accreditation in 2011, ARA has been working with ACLASS, an internationally recognized accrediting body. After the initial accreditation is established, the laboratory must undergo ongoing monitoring. Every other year, an offsite records “surveillance” audit is conducted, involving a documentation review process, which is less disruptive to the folks in the lab. This year, however, we were due for our full audit. Just last month we completed our biannual document review and on-site audit, covering all DoD and NLLAP (National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program) certified parameters.  

Prior to the on-site visit, we were required to submit all applicable SOPs, proficiency tests, sample data packages and other documentation. These documents were reviewed prior to the arrival of ACLASS.  Thanks to Jen Guerette’s (our QAO’s) attention to detail, we were happy to learn that these documents were complete with no findings or recommendations. The on-site audit took place in May (one of our busiest months). Our staff had the opportunity to sit with the assessor to review how they perform their analyses, evaluate data, and document their work. Questions were asked along the way, as the analysts described their procedures. Everything from notebook page numbers to calibration records were examined. A good portion of the last day was spent reviewing ARA’s quality system. Internal audits, document control systems and training records all received close attention. After three days, ARA was provided with a few minor items to clarify or modify. It is the auditor’s job after all to find SOMETHING! The assessor commented that he was impressed with our overall compliance with the standards and broad scope of services for a small business. ARA values the opportunity to participate in external audits. Although they are a large investment of time and money, they allow us to assure YOU that we are continually improving our processes, renewing our commitment to documentation in data quality and validating the quality of our work in a measurable way. Whether your project requires a DoD accredited lab or not, you benefit from our participation in this program and our ability to meet this high standard! If you have any questions about audits, we are happy to discuss. If you need to audit one of your vendors, we may have a checklist that can help you with your assessment!


NHDES, LANH, the CDC and Arsenic

At the recent Lab Association of New Hampshire (LANH) meeting in Concord, Pierce Rigrod of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) presented information regarding a grant being applied for from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support outreach to private well owners in New Hampshire.  The goal of this program is to better understand and combat the Arsenic problem which is prominent in bedrock aquifers.

90% of the private drinking water supplies in New Hampshire are bedrock wells.  It is estimated that 20% of these wells have arsenic at concentrations above the drinking water Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10ppb.  Elevated arsenic has been linked to skin, circulatory problems and an increased cancer risk.  

The first phase is to better understand what private well water consumers are now doing to protect themselves.  Work will be done to build upon prior efforts to determine the frequency of testing and what types of mitigation systems (if any) are currently being used.  In the second year, outreach to well owners will be done to encourage testing for arsenic, including some town-wide sampling initiatives. Well owners would also have access to one-on-one consultations to implement mitigation systems if needed.  Finally, an online portal will be created which would provide information to the public about the findings and access to state-wide data.  Hopefully these efforts will help raise awareness, reducing the health risk from arsenic exposure.  And of course if you know of anyone that wants to get their water tested for arsenic, we can certainly help them out here at ARA!

Can We Bring You Lunch?

Absolute Resource Associates would love to bring Pizza Lunch to your office for a Brown Bag Presentation of your choice!

Is there a topic within the Environmental or Indoor Air industries you or your staff would like to know more about? ARA Brown Bags are a great way to for your staff to learn and ask questions in an informal setting. Some popular topics have included:


  • PCB: Microwave vs. Soxhlet
  • Mold Sample Collection and Analysis
  • Asbestos Regulations and Sample Analysis
  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • Low Level Ortho-Phosphate


If you or your staff would benefit from a technical presentation on these or any other topic, please contact us to discuss your interests.

What Do You Want to Read About?
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ARA Dragonfly Planter

Plant the dragonflies, they grow into wildflowers!!


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