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5 Steps to Choosing a PFAS Testing Lab

5 Steps to Choosing a PFAS Testing Lab

October 18, 2022
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In 2023, the U.S. EPA’s Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) will go into effect, requiring all public water systems (PWS) serving more than 3,300 people and 800 randomly selected smaller water systems to begin testing for 29 PFAS compounds and lithium.

Before UCMR 5 sampling begins, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) will subject PFOA and PFOS to Maximum Contaminant Limits (MCLs) that can be upheld with federal authority. As a result, PWSs will be faced with either testing in-house or outsourcing to a laboratory.

For the PWSs that will rely on outsourcing PFAS, there are currently 35 laboratories approved by the EPA for UCMR 5 PFAS requirements. However, due to the large volume of testing that needs to be carried out, approved labs will be overwhelmed, which may force PWSs to look for other options for analysis.

There are 5 steps that will help determine the right PFAS testing laboratory

Step 1: Find a Certified or Accredited Laboratory

The first step in finding a suitable PFAS testing laboratory involves determining if the laboratory holds certification or accreditation for PFAS. If these laboratories are unavailable, check to see if other agencies or groups provided the lab with certification or accreditation, such as TNI NELAC, DoD, DOE and ISO. Also, determine if the lab has previous experience and approval with prior rounds of UCMR.

Step 2: Determine which Methods and Other Tests are Needed

Establish your PFAS testing needs and select the most relevant laboratories based on their testing capabilities. State and EPA authorities will require both EPA test method 533 and/or 537.1 for drinking water compliance. The application of each method is dependent upon the type of PFAS compound being analyzed.

For instance, UCMR 5 will require both 533 and 537.1 for the analysis of all 29 PFAS compounds. Additionally, the EPA is committed to studying PFAS as a class of compounds. This will inevitably result in the testing of non-targeted PFAS that are not covered by validated methods, requiring specialized technology and experience from designated labs.

Step 3: Determine if the Lab Utilizes Electronic Data Deliverables (EDD)

EDD ensures that data can be accessed electronically and is critical for continued analysis. In addition to EDD, consider which formats are needed. State compliance programs for PFAS may require a specific EDD format, including:

  • Safe Drinking Water Accession and Review Systems (SDWARS)
  • Environmental Risk Information Services (ERIS)
  • Formerly Used Defense Sites Chemistry Database (FUDSCHEM)
  • Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS)

Step 4: Determine Laboratory Timelines

Contamination events can present time-sensitive threats to the ecosystem and human safety. In these situations, rapid responses are necessary to mitigate the damage of high levels of PFAS. Before committing to a laboratory, ensure that they can meet the quantity of samples processed and the timeline of sampling.

Step 5: Address a Potential Strain in Analysis and Reporting

Variability in reporting amongst different EPA regions adds strain to data analysis. In response, the EPA has created level IV data packages, which are defined sets of reporting requirements for different types of environmental projects.

Level IV data packages ensure data validity and defensibility in a court of law. If a project requires a level IV data package, ensure the testing lab is capable. The costs and timelines associated with the package will vary from lab to lab.

For labs with in-house testing, or those who are planning to bring testing in-house, proper instrumentation and experienced consultation services are critical. PerkinElmer QSight LC/MS/MS can evaluate all 29 PFAS compounds required in UCMR 5. These two links offer a deeper dive into PFAS analysis for EPA Method 533 and Method 537.1, two very useful application notes for in-house testing labs.

Find out how PerkinElmer’s PFAS consultation services can support your in-house testing.

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