This article will discuss the industry trends and challenges environmental monitoring organizations face today and will demonstrate how the use of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) allows managers to make informed decisions to improve throughput, resolve environmental issues and risks faster, all while enabling organizations to comply with strict regulatory guidelines. An application example will illustrate how the flexibility and functionality of a LIMS can improve workflow efficiencies, productivity and sample integrity as well as ensure adherence to regulations governing environmental testing.
Environmental and wastewater testing laboratories face unique challenges when it comes to delivering accurate, consistent and traceable results. Furthermore, the current economic environment contributes additional pressure to standardize workflows and processes that facilitate regulatory compliance, ensure public safety and monitor quality throughout the entire sampling, testing and reporting process.
The History and Impact of Regulations Environmental and water quality regulation in the United States began in 1889 with the Rivers and Harbors Act which gave authorities the power to regulate obstructions to navigation and effluent discharged into the rivers. Subsequent legislation put into action the requirement to monitor water sources, wastewater and effluent for contaminants that could be hazardous to health and the environment at large. Today, regulation places a significant emphasis on the monitoring of wastewater treated discharges and receiving waters. This covers bacteria, chemicals including nitrates and pesticides, metals (i.e., lead), as well as basic criteria such as turbidity. Compliance with accreditation requirements for environmental testing now mandates that the laboratories capture, store and track growing volumes of information to demonstrate that samples, results and records have been collected according to requirements.
Wastewater treatment organizations are responsible for collecting and treating wastewater, monitoring discharges and receiving waters, and regulating industrial discharges to ensure that harmful and toxic materials are kept out of the water and the wider environment. As a result, the laboratories that support them take many thousands of samples every year for testing in order to guarantee the water is safe and that quality standards are met. These samples can be taken from natural water sources, sewers and organizations as diverse as dental clinics, energy service providers and manufacturers.