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EPA audit shows two Hawaii water quality testing laboratories need improvement

Release Date: 05/20/2008
Contact Information: David Yogi 808/541-2726  

HONOLULU – Results from a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency audit of two commercial whole effluent toxicity testing laboratories in Hawaii reveal a need for improvement at Aecos Laboratory of Hawaii and the Food Quality Laboratories for some water quality testing.

The EPA graded Aecos unacceptable and Food Quality conditionally acceptable for water quality testing on a species of indigenous Hawaiian sea urchin. The whole effluent toxicity tests are required as part of wastewater discharge permits.

"These tests are important to determine the toxicity of wastewater discharges to marine life," said Alexis Strauss, water division director for the EPA Pacific Southwest region. "Permittees with toxic discharges need to identify the chemicals causing toxicity and reduce them to non-toxic levels."

The audit reports provide recommendations to each lab on how to correct and improve its water quality testing and the EPA has requested corrective action plans from both labs.

The EPA found the Aecos lab lacks a quality assurance plan and a standard operating procedure for any testing methods related the sea urchin, resulting in serious deviations and omissions from the correct testing method required in Hawaii permits. The lab also has inadequate equipment and supplies, extremely poor quality assurance and quality control practices, fails to maintain proper documentation, and has is limited oversight of the technician conducting all toxicity tests. The EPA is aware of seven Hawaii wastewater permittees using the Aecos whole effluent toxicity lab.

The performance rating for Food Quality Laboratories is conditionally acceptable because August through December 2007 data submitted for the audit show satisfactory laboratory performance, and good quality control, indicating that current data is of good quality and usable for meeting permit requirements.

While Food Quality did not have a quality assurance plan, it has a detailed standard operating procedure for testing methodologies related to the sea urchin, has appropriate equipment, good laboratory practices, sought training from an experienced Hawaii laboratory, and has a smaller workload.

The EPA is recommending all 2007 results by Aecos be evaluated by the permitting authorities. If a permittee decides to contract with a different commercial laboratory and toxicity test failures happen, they should immediately do additional toxicity testing and a toxicity reduction evaluation study. The EPA is requesting additional data results from Food Quality in order to determine if its data from January to July 2007 is usable for to meet permit requirements.

Tripneustes gratilla is an indigenous Hawaii sea urchin that the state of Hawaii and the EPA determined an appropriate species for testing to show whether there are toxic effects from discharges into Hawaii’s marine waters.