Ten years ago, when I first started in the business of environmental consulting, I attended a 3-day conference on something environmental-ie (my technical language is quite impressive, I know). Here?s what I learned:


Well, nothing except for the fact that so many acronyms were thrown around that my head nearly popped off trying to make sense of their meanings. Just think The Exorcist.

Ok, that?s not entirely true. I did learn that people like to get a little sloppy at night and jump into pools with their clothes on; tell ?shock and awe? stories of nightmare clients, biological hazards, and other random would-you-please-for-the-love-of-God-stop-talking-before-I-stick this-hors d’oeuvre-toothpick-in-your-eye vignettes; and, if trying to woo you, how freakin? awesome they are at everything.

But back to the acronyms. Example sentence of veteran keynote speaker:

?NELAC- and DoD-certified laboratories are required for EAs at LUST sites under USACE MATOC HTRW TOs.?

The speaker looked out at the audience as if he just said something as simple as ?See Spot. See Spot Run. Run Spot Run,? and boy did I feel dumb as everyone around me nodded their heads in agreement.? To me, he could have been speaking Basque. What? You?ve never heard of Basque?


I heard: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, LUST (note: do not google ?LUST? in the middle of a conference) sites under blah, blah, blah…”? Wha…huh?

Anyway, in an attempt to clarify a couple of acronyms for the newbies in the business, I want to cover NELAC and DoD accreditations.

National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference (NELAC) Institute (TNI) Accrediation

The NELAC Institute was created on November 6, 2006, to achieve a long-term goal of the environmental laboratory and monitoring communities to have a national accreditation program.

Most contracts require that laboratories are NELAC Institute certified. If a laboratory has never been accredited before, the process can be quite lengthy — 12 to 18 months. How does a laboratory get accredited? There?s a ton of information out there to help out. This flow chart on NELAC?s website is a great start. From there, you can read the 2003 NELAC standard, and from there (I know, as if the previous 324 page document wasn?t enough), have your laboratory do a gap analysis using the checklist that you can download below. More information on the NELAC Institute and accreditation can be found here.

Department of Defense (DoD) Accreditation

For laboratories that are interested in performing analysis in support of restoration work for the DoD, laboratories must be accredited under the DoD Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP). Requirements are extensive, as laboratories must comply with the latest version of the DoD Quality Systems Manual for Environmental laboratories. The manual and a lot of frequently asked questions on the program can be found here. A helpful checklist outlining requirements can also be downloaded below.

Now, hopefully, if you hear DoD, NELAC, and ELAP thrown around at the next conference you go to, not only will you know what they mean, but you might actually be able to provide some useful information to the perplexed college grad sitting beside you.


Written by: Karen Baer

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