National Program Manager for Regional Laboratories Activities
The National Program Manager for Regional Laboratories (NPM) was created in 2019 to support EPA’s efforts to strengthen the Agency’s Regional Laboratories and to support the Laboratory Enterprise (LE). The NPM works closely with the Regional and other EPA Offices, to accomplish activities such as:
- Align the budget to support the Regional Laboratories;
- Establish a performance metric to assess the responsiveness of the Regional Laboratories in meeting customer needs;
- Increase internal and external awareness of the high-quality analytical services provided by the Regional Laboratories to the Agency, states, tribes and local communities; and
- Identify priorities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of LE operations.
An important function of the NPM Team is facilitating the development and administration of Laboratory Enterprise (LE) performance measures. In early FY 2020, the NPM team worked with Regional Laboratory leadership to develop two new metrics: “Number of Regional Laboratories meeting 80% sample analysis timeliness target” and “Percentage of Regional Laboratory sample analyses delivered on time”. These metrics are tracked on a monthly basis and have been incorporated on the Agency-wide performance metric tracking system and component of ‘lean management’ at EPA.
Timeliness of laboratory sample analysis delivery is an important indicator of meeting customer needs. The NPM Team gathers and analyzes analysis-level delivery data each month and continues to work with Regional Laboratory partners to improve efficiencies.
Improving Effectiveness and Efficiency
The NPM is working on several projects that are aimed at improving effectiveness and efficiency across the Laboratory Enterprise (LE).
- Operational Improvements
Develop products, processes and communication materials that focus on increasing the effectiveness and/or efficiency of the operations of the components of the LE and monitor progress toward improvements. This includes, but is not limited to actions such as, increasing adoption of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) and improving the consistency of sample tracking and science data management.
- Equipment Effort
Develop best practices that facilitate the efficient utilization of high-end equipment through capacity sharing and reusing such equipment capacity across the Agency.
The NPM is developing several products that promote collaboration across the Laboratory Enterprise (LE). Many of these products are made possible through the collaboration among LE staff, other EPA offices, external partners, and key stakeholders.
The Environmental Methods Forum (EMF or Forum) was established to ensure consistency and quality, while still allowing for programmatic flexibility, in processes for:
- Prioritizing, developing and validating laboratory methods (e.g., chemical, biological and) for non-regulatory purposes;
- Prioritizing, developing and validating field sampling protocols and field methods (e.g., radiological, biological and chemical) for non-regulatory purposes;
- Adopting methods developed by external parties (governmental or private consensus standard development organizations) for EPA’s non-regulatory purposes; and
- Providing effective internal (cross-Agency) and external communication on these activities.
The EMF is neither a part of, nor does it replace or supplement, existing Agency groups or processes for the development and validation of regulatory and non-regulatory methods. However, it serves as a forum for coordination and communication across EPA on issues involving both regulatory and non-regulatory methods.
A Method Development Community of Practice (CoP) to increase coordination and collaboration of method development activities (chemical, radiological, and biological) has been regularly meeting. The CoP provides a venue for interested managers and staff from across EPA to share information regarding methods currently in development within the Agency, new parameters or contaminants that may need method development, and efforts by outside entities that could be leveraged to meet an Agency need.
The Regional Laboratory Network provides the analytical, technical and programmatic support that is critical to accomplishing the Agency’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. The Regional Laboratories ensure that analytical and technical expertise are available at the Regional level and are well positioned to rapidly address the ever-changing needs of a variety of environmental programs and help meet State and local partners’ needs.
Collaboration, both internally within the Agency and externally, is essential to the work of the Regional Laboratories. Laboratories often work together and share their expertise with other laboratories within the Regional Laboratory Network. In addition, Regional Laboratories collaborate with outside entities, such as key stakeholders and community partners. One great example of an internal and external collaboration is when the Idaho Water Science Center of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) collaborated with EPA Region 8 and Region 10 to collect and analyze fish tissue in the Kootenai River watershed downstream of Libby Dam. Collaborations like this are integral to the work of the Regional Laboratory Network and the success of the Agency as a whole.