Adding New Methods

We have been adding new tests to our battery of testing. While these are exciting times for Clean Water Lab, there is actually more to adding new methods than you may think. There are at least 7 Major Steps in adding a new analyte method. I’ll tell you how we do it below… but keep in mind that I’ve condensed weeks to months of work into 7 Steps (which is no easy feat).


Step One: Determine the Method

The first step we take is to identify the method and equipment we would like to use to for our analyte or contaminant. Clean Water Lab seeks out water testing methods that are EPA approved, accepted, or equivalent. We seek out methods that have been scientifically validated. There are many factors to consider when selecting a method, and I will further outline this in another article.

Step Two: Collect Resources

Once we have identified the method, we purchase the necessary equipment and resources. In this process there could be chemical, personal protective equipment, or space considerations. All of these items were identified in Step One, so Step Two is about applying our research to the lab

Step Three: Draft SOP

Once we have our method and materials, we draft up the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This draft document contains crucial quality control measures for our method. The typical quality control measures include an Initial Demonstration of Capability (IDC), which measures accuracy and precision.

Step Four: Initial Demonstration of Capability

Using our laboratory notebooks, we begin to document our initial tests of the method in our laboratory. At this stage, we are not yet offering the service to the public. We begin testing the accuracy and precision of the method on known values, such as standard solutions. During this process, we use statistical analysis to determine whether we can meet certain accuracy and precision thresholds. At the end of this phase, we should have a completed SOP.

Step Five: Documentation Updates

There are many documents that go into one procedure. Often this means that many of our procedures, logs, worksheets, and order forms need to be updated before offering the service to the public. Once we have our worksheets and documents in order, we move on to one of the most crucial steps.

Step Six: Training Sessions          

After the method is completely established, passed the IDC, and the SOP is approved, training sessions begin. Our training sessions consist of many steps over the course of a few days. At the end of the training sessions, trainer and trainee sign off on a Training Checklist. Once we have trained staff, the method is ready for the public sector.

Step Seven: 3rd Party Proficiency Test

For each method we consider a proficiency test (PT), or a 3rd party verification of our testing method. Depending on the method, they are done annually or bi-annually. These tests are an important facet of quality, and we pride ourselves on every passed PT

Lab Skills: Training


When we onboard or develop a new procedure at Clean Water Lab, we take training very seriously. There are many reasons why we value training and here are just a few:

  • Quality: we ensure the process is done properly every time.
  • Efficiency: we ensure the process is done in the most efficient manner every time.
  • Trouble shooting: we ensure our staff know how to trouble-shoot when issues arise.
  • Education: we ensure our staff are educated in any science behind our process.

At the end of the training session, each Clean Water Lab team member should walk away feeling knowledgeable and prepared to perform the procedure. But how do we train our staff to perform our vital testing procedures?


When we onboard or develop a new procedure, we typically follow certain guidelines. These guidelines are outlined in our Quality Assurance Plan and are listed below.

Trainee reads the SOP

The trainee spends time reading the Standard Operating Procedure. The focus of this session is to acquaint the trainee with the basics and any science behind the method.

Trainee observes the Trainer performing the tasks

The trainee sees the procedure in action. This is the time for the trainee to ask any questions they may have. These sessions are crucial for outlining safety precautions as well.

Trainer assists/supervises Trainee completing the tasks

The trainer gives the trainee one-on-one guidance and tips for performing the procedure. The trainee gets the opportunity to gain hands on experience. The trainer actively refers the trainee to the SOP for any items that need to be clarified.

Trainer/Trainee sign off on the training checklist

After extensive trainer/trainee one-on-one, they both sign off on a training checklist. This training checklist outlines the crucial procedural steps. The trainer and trainee agree that they have either trained or been trained in those items, respectively.

Trainee relies on the help of the Trainer until they feel confident

During this on-the-job learning time, the trainee is minimally supervised by the trainer. This phase is intended to phase out the trainer so the trainee can become independent. The trainer is available to help whenever the trainee is in need and will periodically audit the trainee’s performance.

Trainee completes the SOP quiz, with 80% or higher

Once the trainer/trainee feel confident in the trainee’s performance, an SOP quiz is completed by the trainee. The trainee is not allowed to refer to the SOP or to use any notes. The trainee must achieve an 80% or higher on the quiz. If the trainee fails to score appropriately, they will be deferred to remedial training.

Trainee is audited performing the process independently

Once the SOP quiz is completed with an 80% or higher, the trainee will be audited. The auditor will not assist the trainee or give guidance. It is the trainee’s full responsibility to perform the tasks outlined in the SOP properly. The auditor uses a competency checklist to track the trainee’s performance. Any crucial mistakes on the part of the trainee will result in remedial training, and a failed competency.

Trainee completes initial competency, completes tasks without supervision

Once the competency audit is successfully completed, the trainee is now considered competent in the procedure. They may complete the procedure without supervision.

Trainee is audited again after 6 months

As if one audit wasn’t enough! In 6-months, the trainee is audited again to ensure a quality performance.

Trainee is deemed competent, audits move to an annual basis

After it’s all said and done, the trainee gets to be audited annually instead of every 6 months. They will perform the tasks outlined in the SOP without supervision and will move from trainee to trained.

Enjoying what you’ve read so far? Check out Liz’s last article:



Liz has been a North Carolina resident for over 20 years. Her leadership and management skills have developed across the food, retail, and testing laboratory industries. Liz has been the Laboratory Director at Clean Water Lab for over 3 years. Currently, she holds two degrees in biology and is pursuing a MBA from Western Carolina University.

4 Reasons Why

We get quite a few calls for technician collections here at Clean Water Lab. Through the years, I have performed many of those sample collections. Generally speaking, I’ve found 4 reasons why people choose to go with a technician for sample collection. If you’re on the fence about this service, hopefully I can bring some clarity. So here it goes!

Reason #1 Requirements

VA, USDA, FHA…these kinds of loans require it. Need it quickly? Don’t fret, we usually have next day results too.

Reason #2: The New One

Some at risk clients just don’t want to go anywhere if they don’t have to. We get it. We’re here with competitive pricing. Keep quarantined and carry on!

Reason #3: Time is Against Them

Some clients do not have time to get a kit or to bring a sample to the lab-and we have their backs! Our technicians are happy to come out to the site ASAP.

Reason #4: Concern

Some clients are worried about grabbing a clean sample. That’s understandable, so we’re here to put minds at ease. Our staff has been trained by NC Water Works Association and NC DHHS officials. We have the expertise so our clients can have peace of mind!