AETL utilizes a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to manage the flow of work through the laboratory. The QA/QC program dictates the treatment that every sample receives from the receipt of the sample to the final disposition of it.
Qualified sample custodians receive samples under chain of custody procedures. The sample custodians are trained in the inspection of environmental samples to ensure that shipping conditions, containers and preservatives are consistent with requirements of the requested analysis as outlined in the 3rd edition of SW846. Deviations from the protocols are noted on the chain of custody and communicated to the Project Manager. Appropriate alternatives for treatment of these samples are discussed with the Project Manager, new instructions are obtained, and corrective actions are implemented accordingly. The conditions of the samples and containers, as well as all shipping conditions, are noted and recorded in a cooler receipt form.
In the absence of any deviations from the protocol, each sample, including the client’s QA/QC sample, is assigned a unique laboratory identification number that is noted and recorded in the sample receiving logbook. The date of sampling and the date of receipt of the sample in the laboratory, as well as all the analytical requirements, are also noted and recorded in the same logbook.
All samples on the chain of custody are batched together and assigned with one job number. An order form is prepared on which all the particulars of the samples, such as date sampled, date received, type of sample, locations of sampling, client’s name, lab ID number, field number and all other data pertinent to the samples are recorded. Analytical requirements for the samples, in addition to any special instructions or turn-around time, are also listed on the order form.
The status of any particular sample at any given time is given on the LIMS, which is monitored by the QA/QC officer on a daily basis. A copy of the order form is submitted to every analyst who has to perform any analytical work on the sample. The order forms are distributed among the analysts on a daily basis. If one sample must be analyzed for more than one parameter, the sample custodian assures that the sample integrity is not compromised and that sample holding times are not violated for each analysis.
After being logged, if the sample has not already been preserved, the correct preservative is added and recorded on the chain of custody and the sample is then stored in assigned refrigerators in the sample storage room. When the analyst is ready to process a sample, he or she checks out the sample from the storage room through the sample custodian and he or she signs for it.
Upon completion of analysis, the sample (or its empty container) is returned to the sample custodian, who stores it in the sample storage room. Upon completion of analysis the analyst reviews the data with his/her immediate supervisor, and after approval the data are entered into the LIMS and the completed test is automatically flagged and is ready for report generation. A draft report is generated and the QA/QC officer reviews the results. Upon approval of the draft report by the QA/QC officer, the report is faxed to the client. Finally the report is reviewed and approved by the Laboratory Director, an invoice is generated and the original of the report along with the invoice is mailed to the client.
The laboratory maintains two levels of security to limit access to samples or associated data. Facility security is maintained through controlled access to the laboratory by keeping the doors locked with limited access for cleared laboratory employees. The door of the sample storage room, which is kept locked at all times, is only accessible by the sample custodian. Access to clients’ old data and files, which are kept in locked files in the laboratory’s main office, is only possible through the laboratory secretary with the approval of the laboratory director. Clients’ new data is kept in computer network, which can be accessed through a password by the laboratory secretary with the approval of the laboratory director.
The laboratory retains disposal capability for specific contracts that require the laboratory to take responsibility for treatment and disposal. Solid samples are stored in drums located in a secured area outside the laboratory, prior to removal by a California-licensed hazardous waste transport company. Inorganic aqueous and organic standard solutions and solvent wastes are recorded on manifests and stored in labeled, compatible solvent storage drums prior to removal by the hazardous waste transport contractor.