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The Central Valley Clean Water Association (CVCWA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the California Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program’s (ELAP) Draft Emergency Regulations governing fees for the program. CVCWA is a non-profit association of public agencies located within the Central Valley region that provide wastewater collection, treatment, and water recycling services to millions of Central Valley residents and businesses. We approach these matters with the perspective of balancing environmental and economic interests consistent with state and federal law.

Many of CVCWA’s member agencies operate ELAP-accredited laboratories, and pay ELAP’s fees accordingly. However, these agencies’ labs are typically smaller and have tighter budgets. Thus, fee increases for ELAP accreditation is important to the bottom line for these laboratories.

On July 16, 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) will be considering a proposed Resolution adopting an emergency regulation amending the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Fee Schedules in Title 22, California Code of Regulations Section 64806, which increases fees by 20 percent. Specifically, the base/administrative charge would increase from $1,890 to $2,268, and the Field of Testing fee would increase from $851 to $1,021. CVCWA would like to express its concern regarding these large increases, the need for service performance from ELAP, the overall cost of compliance of both these fees and ELAP regulation proposals, and the need for additional stakeholder involvement in future fees. State Water Resources Control Board.

Since the Board took oversight and operation of ELAP five years ago, ELAP fees have already increased by 97 percent. The current proposal would increase the current fees by an additional 20 percent, which would equate to a total 136 percent increase in fees since ELAP moved over to the Board from the Department of Public Health (DPH). CVCWA recognizes that when this occurred the program was underfunded, and that increases in fees were both needed and expected for the program to be self-sustaining. However, despite the almost doubling of fees to date, we are still concerned that the program is still not functioning at a level needed to provide an adequate level of service both needed and expected by the laboratory community. Primarily, these service concerns surround timely accreditation renewals, including addressing the backlog of audit inspections needed for accreditation and communication between ELAP and the laboratory community when changes are made to the application or compliance process.

In addition to these large fee increases, CVCWA’s main concern continues to be the overall cost of compliance if and when new accreditation standards are adopted, and the long-term viability of our small laboratories to provide the essential support services to our treatment plants. CVCWA urges ELAP staff to continue to work with the stakeholder community and to incorporate a California quality management system that would enhance the viability of our small laboratories.

A framework for a new fee structure for ELAP has been recently presented to stakeholders on June 13, 2019. This was the first meeting to discuss a revised framework since 2017. CVCWA is supportive of the development of a new framework, but hopes that Board staff will continue to involve stakeholders in its development going forward. Relatedly, we request that Board staff publish a schedule for the fee restructuring process and opportunities for stakeholders to remain engaged.

CVCWA appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on this matter. Please contact me for any further assistance you may need at (530) 268-1338 or eofficer@cvcwa.org.