Policy and Objectives
Capco complies with applicable Quality Assurance procedures including A Guidelines and Specifications for Preparing Quality Assurance Program plans, QAMS-055/80; A Procedures Manual for Groundwater Monitoring at Solid Waste Disposal Facilities, EPA SW-600; A Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste, EPA SW-846, July 1982; and A Handbook for Sampling and Sample Preservation of Water and Wastewater, EPA 600/4-82-029, September 1982. Capco clearly recognizes the need for a sound Quality Assurance (QA) program and implements all procedures necessary to insure the reliability of the data produced. All policies and procedures for specific instrumentation and analysis are detailed in the Capco Quality Assurance Manual (QAM). Copies of the QAPP/M are available from the Laboratory Director or Technical Representative.
It is the policy of Capco to provide analytical services in conformance with stringent standards of quality. All analyses performed by Capco are in accordance with established Quality Assurance practices and specific, written testing procedures. All Capco employees are familiar with their responsibilities under the program.
The primary objective of Capco’s Quality Assurance program can be summarized as follows:
- Test results shall be of known quality;
- The precision and accuracy of test data shall be determined;
- All phases of sample handling shall be controlled and documented;
- Data acquisition, transfer, and report preparation steps shall be documented.
- All reports shall be reviewed for completeness and conformance to the Quality Assurance program at three levels; by the relevant department head, by the general manager of analytical services, and by the Manager of Quality Assurance.
- Raw data, Quality Control Data, and reports shall be stored in accordance with Capco’s Quality Assurance program and shall be retrievable.
- Sample receiving shall include determination of appropriate preservation of samples, meeting of holding times, and proper sample splitting techniques.
- Samples shall be retrievable until disposal is needed. Disposal of samples shall conform to all regulatory requirements as well as good laboratory practices.
- All operations shall be performed in accordance with and in conformance to detailed written work instructions Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s).
- Deviations from SOP’s shall be documented and approved in advance by technical management.
Data Management and Reporting
There are three essential parts to the quality assurance program: prevention, assessment, and corrective action.
Prevention requires an orderly program of planning and positive actions before and during analyses to ensure that analytical systems are functioning properly. Examples include quality control planning, training, calibration of instruments, instrumentation maintenance, and frequent standardization.
Assessment involves periodic checks on performance to determine precision and accuracy. Matrix spikes, matrix spike duplicates, blank spikes, blank spike duplicates, and blanks are analyzed at least once every twenty samples of similar matrix or once per batch of similar matrix, whichever is more frequent.
Corrective action is action taken to determine the cause of quality defects and to restore proper function of the analytical system. Corrective action involves trouble shooting malfunctioning equipment, performance of check samples, re-evaluations of methodologies, and retraining of analytical personnel.
Instruments are maintained following manufacturers specific timetables. More frequently maintenance, however, will be dictated depending upon actual operating performance. Service contracts on major instruments with manufacturers and service agencies are used to provide routine preventive maintenance, ensure rapid response for emergency repair service, and reduce instrument down-time. The data, time and type of all maintenance activities are recorded in the maintenance log book.
All instruments are regularly calibrated. The manner in which the various instruments are calibrated will of course depend on the particular instrument and the intended use of the instrument. A record of all calibrations and daily checks is kept in a calibration log book.
All project analysts are trained or certified by experienced Capco personnel and/or trained at instrument manufactures training courses as may be appropriate. Each analyst is required to independently generate data on several method and/or matrix spikes to demonstrate proficiency in that analytical method. The type of data to be generated is dependent on the particular analytical method involved and A certification will then be determined by the appropriate section manager.
Since method blanks and method spikes are required for routine samples in every log, performance on a day-to-day basis is monitored by comparison with the original and cumulative data on similar samples. Supervisors and the laboratory Quality Control manager are responsible for ensuring that samples are analyzed by qualified analysts.
Standard Analytical Methods
Analytical methods are conducted as outlined in published sources such as EPA, Standard Methods, ASTM, AOAC, etc., whenever possible. Complex or unusual matrices, or a request for analyses which do not have established methods, may require modification of existing methods of the development of a new one. The method used, as well as the results of Quality Control samples which determine the applicability of the method chosen, are reported with submitted sample results upon request. If non-published methods are used, a synopsis of the methodology is included in the report.
When standard methods of analyses are not applicable, methods can be developed to provide the desired information. However, the lack of a historical database will not obviate the necessity of documented Quality Control data to demonstrate the validity of the generated results. Reference material sources are then identified, and proof of compound identity and purity has to be available. Instrument operating parameters, as well as calibration data, are documented, and specific procedures, including sampling, if applicable are noted. Quality Control samples, method blanks, method spikes, method spike duplicates, matrix spikes, and matrix duplicates, are analyzed with greater frequency than with standard analytical methods.
Whenever possible, primary reference materials will be obtained from the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the absence of available reference materials from these organizations, other reliable sources will be sought. These reference materials are used for instrument calibrations, quality control samples, and/or performance evaluations. Secondary reference material may be used for these functions provided that they are traceable to NBS standards or have been compared to an NBS standard within the laboratory.
When an analytical system is deemed to be questionable or out of control at any level of review corrective actions will be performed. If possible, the cause of the problem is determined and efforts will be made to correct the problem.
Such equipment will not be used until subsequent satisfactory calibration and/or Quality Control sample data is obtainable.
Data describing the processing of samples is recorded in laboratory notebooks which, at a minimum, contain date of analyses, sample numbers, client information, analyses or operation performed, calibration data, quality control samples including concentrations/ dilutions required, instrument readings, special observations, and analyst’s signature.
Data reduction performed by individual technicians or analysts result in determination of concentrations of parameters in sample bases based on the raw data obtained from instrument measurements. The complexity of the data reduction depends on the specific analytical method and the number and kind of operations including extractions, dilutions, and concentrations involved in obtaining each sample result.
System reviews are routinely performed at all levels. Individual analysts routinely review the quality of data through calibration checks, Quality Control sample results, and performance evaluation analysis. Reviews are made prior to submission for consistency and reasonableness with other data. Selected hard copy output of data such as chromatograms, spectra, etc. will be reviewed to ensure the results are interpreted correctly. Unusual or unexpected results are reviewed and resolved through reanalysis if necessary. In addition, the Section Manager recalculates selected results to verify the calculation procedure.
The Quality Assurance Manager independently conducts a complete review of selected analysis to assure that all Quality Assurance/ Quality Control requirements have been met. Discrepancies are reported to the appropriate Section Manager for resolution.
Reports will contain final results, methods of analysis, levels of detection, surrogate recovery data, method blank data, and any other laboratory quality control data requested by the client. In addition, special analytical problems and/or any modifications or referenced methods are noted.
The numbers of significant figures reported are consistent with the limits of uncertainty inherent in the analytical method. Consequently, most analytical results are reported to no more than two significant figures.
Electronic Data Transfer
Capco Analytical Services provides electronic data transfer in a wide range of formats. Please contact the laboratory to initiate this service and to verify the format you require.
Capco Analytical Services provides a wide range of customized reports. Please contact the laboratory if you have a specific format necessary for a project or contract.
An analyst must always be aware of the potential problems associated with contamination of glassware, reagents, solvent, etc., which are especially critical during trace level analysis. The method used to monitor possible contamination problems is the analysis of blanks. There are generally four types of blanks that are routinely analyzed. The first is a method blank which consists of analyzing deionized water in exactly the same fashion as a sample. This type of blank points out problems such as contaminated glassware and reagents. A method blank is performed with each set of analysis in the laboratory regardless of the number of samples in the set. The second type of blank is a system blank which is utilized to check the purity of the new batches or lots of reagents or solvents. This type of blank is performed as necessary. A third blank is known as a holding blank which records possible contamination from storage refrigeration. The fourth blank is a field blank which provides information on possible contamination of samples in the field during collection and transport.
Laboratory Water, Solvents, and Gases
Laboratory water used for making reagents and rinsing of glassware is constantly monitored by an in-line meter and will meet or exceed electrical conductivity requirements of Type I water as described in the EPA Quality Control Handbook, March 1979. All laboratory solvents utilized for sample extractions are of pesticide grade. Solvents will be checked for purity on a continuing basis for compounds which may interfere with the specific analysis being performed. Gases used for chromatographic procedures are of high purity or ultra-high purity and are equipped with scrubbers to remove trace constituents. Scrubbers used include oxygen traps, molecular sieves, and/or moisture traps. Each are useful for specific applications in Gas Chromatography, and different combinations may be employed depending on particular instrument requirements.