| The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) currently has contracts with several laboratories to provide chemical analyses for over sixty contaminants in animal tissues and environmental samples. In addition to these contaminants, there is a continual need to acquire analytical capability for other analytes. The Analytical Control Facility (ACF) has the responsibility for assessing and assuring the quality of these chemical analyses. The techniques that can be used to assess the quality of routine analyses that are performed both by contract laboratories and in our own FWS laboratories are distinctly different from those used to assess the quality of non-routine analyses.
The quality of contracted chemical analyses is assured by contracting with laboratories that have demonstrated their competence in performing the analyses and by monitoring their performance throughout the life of the contact.
The process of awarding a FWS analytical contract is very long and complicated, involving the coordinated efforts of scientists, administrators, and contracting specialists. Throughout the process the primary goal is to select laboratories capable of performing quality chemical analyses. A laboratory is evaluated by a committee of FWS chemists and is judged technically competent to perform the specific analyses requested if it passes two levels of evaluation. In the first level, the precision and accuracy of the laboratory’s analyses of test samples provided by the FWS are compared with the precision and accuracy that would be expected for the particular analytes. The committee establishes a minimum acceptable score based primarily on the technical judgement of the members. Only those laboratories that pass the first level of evaluation are considered in the second.
In the second level of evaluation the committee considers a number of criteria relating to the quality of the laboratory, its procedures, its facilities, its experience, and its personnel. Each evaluator scores each criterion based on the information provided by the laboratory. The committee establishes a minimum acceptable score based primarily on the technical judgement of the members. Those laboratories that pass both levels of evaluation are inspected by the representatives of the evaluation committee and the contracting and general services office. The purpose of the inspections is to confirm that the facilities, equipment, and personnel that were described in the proposal actually exists, and to observe the functioning of the laboratory. After a successful site visit the laboratory is considered technically competent. If, at the end of the contracting process, no laboratory is judged qualified then no award is made.
Below is an example of the contract award process and the number of laboratories typically involved in each step.
The precision and accuracy of the analyses performed by the contract laboratories are monitored over the life of the contract thought a variety of quality assurance procedures. Some are specific to each catalog that is analyzed, others are designed to test the laboratory operation in general.
The report submitted by a contact laboratory is required to contain the following: