Agency aims to extend MERTS scheme to cover chemical testing of soils

The Environment Agency published proposals on 4 October to extend its Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS) to cover the chemical testing of soils at the start of an eight-week review period.

The Agency, and other organisations, recognise the importance of quality, reliability and consistency in the chemical testing of contaminants in soil and in the reporting of results. This is particularly important as the Agency and Local Authority regulators apply new legislation in Part IIA of the EPA 1990 and the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000. High quality data will be needed to support key regulatory decisions.

Improving reliability
Environment Agency Head of Land Quality, Dr Mark Kibblewhite, believes the proposed extension to MCERTS will ensure that the Agency's performance requirements for the chemical testing of soils are clearly stated and improve the reliability of monitoring results.

Dr Kibblewhite said: "Clearly, if we are to make informed quality decisions, these have to be based on reliable analytical data that industry, regulators and the public can have confidence in."

Benefits from the extension to MCERTS include:

  • establishing a level playing field in the form of a MCERTS performance standard
  • sending a clear message that the production of defensible data for the chemical testing of contaminants in soils is a crucial component of the Agency's regulatory requirements
  • providing assurance to all stakeholders including contractors, regulators, laboratories and the public on the reliability of analytical data generated under MCERTS
  • providing independent and impartial arrangements for the establishment of a MCERTS register based on formal accreditation of analytical laboratories undertaking chemical testing of contaminants in soil

MCERTS was originally launched by the Agency in April 1998. The scheme operates in accordance with the EN45000 series of European Standards and International Standard ISO/IEC 17025:2000. Initially focusing on continuous emissions monitoring systems for stacks, and now extended to ambient monitoring, the Agency intends to progressively expand MCERTS to cover other regulatory monitoring activities such as the chemical testing of soils (the subject of the present technical review), manual stack emissions monitoring, portable emission monitors, instruments for water analysis, data acquisition and handling, and operators on-site arrangements.

As part of the new extension the Agency proposes a register of qualifying laboratories. Qualification would be a third party accreditation to Agency performance requirements based on EN ISO/IEC 17025: 2000.

A MCERTS laboratory performance standard has been developed to provide an explanation and interpretation of the generally stated requirements of EN ISO/IEC 17025: 2000 for this particular application.

During the technical review period, which closes on 30 November 2001, the Agency is hoping to encourage as wide a range of views as possible on its proposals, and is particularly targeting analytical laboratories, consultancies, relevant trade associations and regulatory organisations.

Copies of the technical review document can be obtained from Rosemary Haslam, Environment Agency, National Compliance Assessment Service, Cameron House, White Cross Industrial Estate, South Road, Lancaster LA1 4XQ. Tel: 01524 842704 Fax: 01524 842709 or by email from: rosemary.haslam@environment-agency.gov.uk


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