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EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations

About the ESB Laboratory


The Region 6 Environmental Services Branch (ESB) Laboratory, located in Houston, Texas provides environmental analytical services for Regional Programs, and serves as the source of scientific expertise and prowess for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National and Regional regulatory and executive decisions. The environmental analytical services provided by the laboratory are conducted and completed within critical time frames for use in deliberations and decision-making in various Region 6 and National EPA programs. The scientific expertise required to design and execute these analyses is also called upon to provide advice and expert testimony in Regional and National Program decisions, and civil and criminal litigation. This expertise is often utilized to perform critical environmental analyses for sensitive enforcement cases.

The reliability of the design, analyses, and results of projects undertaken by the Region requires adherence to good science and requires rigorous quality control and quality assurance. The Environmental Services Branch (ESB) Laboratory serves a critical role in scientific support for Regional Quality Assurance efforts. This includes Quality Assurance oversight of the Region's Superfund Contract Laboratory Program (CLP). The ESB Laboratory's capability can also serve as a referee in controversial cases.

The fast pace of emerging technologies and science requires that the Laboratory keep at the forefront of new analytical procedures. An evermore important aspect of the Laboratory’s mission is the development and adaptation of analytical methods and procedures. Moreover, this capability serves as the basis for technical advice and assistance to our partner agencies in Federal, State, and local government.

The original Houston Laboratory consisted of several mobile buildings located near the Houston Ship Channel. This operation was established as a result of an enforcement conference conducted in 1970 and 1971 under the terms of theExit EPA U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Refuse Act Program. A recommendation of the conference was for a joint study of Galveston Bay, which was conducted by the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration and theExit EPA Texas Water Quality Board. The study determined the waste loads flowing into Galveston Bay from the Houston Ship Channel, and other sources. The results were utilized in wastewater discharge permits to prevent the further degradation of Galveston Bay.

A permanent facility was constructed and occupied by EPA in June of 1972. This facility was designed to handle the classical water quality parameters, such as biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), total organic carbon (TOC), nutrients, metals, total and fecal coliform, pesticides, oil and grease and bioassays.

As environmental programs evolved into addressing toxic and hazardous wastes, the requirements for regional laboratory support experienced significant changes. The nature of the samples were becoming more hazardous, thereby requiring specialized handling and newer and more sophisticated analytical instrumentation. Due to the age and design of the existing facility, EPA determined that a new laboratory would be needed to satisfy these new requirements as well as provide a safe working environment for employees.

The impetus for acquiring a new facility was begun in 1988 and the new laboratory was completed and occupied in June 1990. This laboratory incorporates the latest features in design and operation and is considered state of the art for environmental laboratories.

The Environmental Services Branch (ESB) Laboratory provides support to Region 6 programs. It provides quality assured analytical support using state-of-the-art techniques and methodology for organic, inorganic, and biological analyses. Laboratory personnel also perform evaluations and audits of environmental monitoring laboratories and public water supply laboratories. Management of the Regional Contract Laboratory Program, including sample scheduling, sample routing, data verification, data validation and data usability, are responsibilities of the laboratory. Technical expertise is provided to the Region, as well as other Federal, State, Tribal and Local entities. Expert witness support is provided for both civil and criminal enforcement cases.

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