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Bureau of Laboratories

Our mission is to develop and deliver timely, accurate analytical information in support of Pennsylvania's environmental protection programs and to help assure the quality of statewide laboratory services through laboratory accreditation and improvement activities.

Analytical Testing Accreditation

The Bureau of Laboratories maintains accreditation for various analytical testing parameters with the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) through the accreditation bodies of both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Main Laboratory

Accreditation for analytical testing of inorganic, organic, bacteriological, and radioactive substances present in air, drinking water, non-potable water, and solid environmental samples.

Mobile Analytical Units

Accreditation for analytical testing of organic substances present in air.

Bureau of Laboratories YouTube Video Link

Physical and Mailing Addresses

Physical Address (UPS, Fed Ex, etc.):

Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Laboratories
2575 Interstate Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9332

US Postal Service:

Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Laboratories
PO Box 1467
Harrisburg, PA 17105-1467
Phone: 717-346-7200
Fax: 717-346-8590

Inorganic Division

Air Chemistry and Gravimetric Section

The Air Chemistry and Gravimetric Section is responsible for performing various analytical methods for mine drainage, water and wastewater samples, solid and liquid fuels, paints and coatings, hi-volume and PM2.5 filters, soils and microscopic examination of environmental samples from suspected source industries. Analyses of water samples include the following: oil & grease/TPH, TOX, total solids, total dissolved solids and total suspended solids. 

Automated Analysis and Biochemistry Analytical Section

The Automated Analysis and Biochemistry Analytical Section performs primarily inorganic nonmetals and BOD analyses by potentiometric titration, automated colorimetry, and ion chromatography analytical methodology. Most analyses are performed on drinking, ground, and waste waters. However, biosolids, solid waste, and air filter samples are also analyzed for selected parameters.

Trace Metals and Sample Receiving

The Trace Metal and Sample Receiving Section is responsible for analysis of metals in water, soil, waste, air filters and tissue samples. The section also performs partial processing of samples for the Bureau of Laboratories and provides complete sample processing for the Inorganic Division.

Laboratory Accreditation Program

The Pennsylvania Laboratory Accreditation Program (LAP) evaluates and accredits environmental laboratories in accordance with State and Federal Regulations to protect the environment and ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Laboratories performing testing on environmental samples for compliance with a statute administered by the Department of Environmental Protection (Department) must be registered with or accredited by the LAP. Pennsylvania State Regulations (25 Pa. Code, Chapter 252) requires environmental laboratories performing testing on drinking water samples, non-potable water samples, or samples of solid and chemical materials to be accredited, if the purpose of that testing is to comply with any environmental statutes listed in the regulation. Examples include the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Streams Law, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act, and the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act. The National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) recognizes the department as a NELAP Accreditation Body, and NELAP accreditation is also available through the LAP as an alternative to PA State Accreditation under Chapter 252. For additional information regarding PA Laboratory Accreditation requirements and regulations, and information on becoming registered or accredited with the LAP, please click on the "Laboratory Accreditation Program" link at the right-hand side of this page.

Mobile Analytical Laboratories

The Bureau of Laboratories' Mobilab group has four mobilabs available to provide on-site environmental testing throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The mobilabs have the capability to analyze air, water, soil, as well as other matrices for both organic and inorganic contaminants. Each mobilab has unique analytical capabilities and can be used separately or in tandem with the other mobilabs to obtain a complete site profile. Analyses are tailored for the specific projects in an effort to provide quick turnaround times. The Mobilabs are maintained ready to respond to environmental emergencies at all times.

Bacteriological Services

The Biological Services Section consists of three units: the Microbiology Lab, the Giardia Lab, and the Microbial Source Tracking Lab. The Microbiology Lab conducts analyses for total coliform bacteria, fecal coliform bacteria, E. coli, enterococci, fecal streptococci, and heterotrophic plate count bacteria. This group also conducts plankton analysis, algae identification, iron and sulfur bacteria identification and chlorophyll analysis. The Giardia Lab conducts filtration plant performance evaluation (FPPE) analyses, surface water Identification procedure (SWIP) analysis, filtration plant media analysis, and identification of giardia cysts and cryptosporidia oocysts analyses. The Microbial Source Tracking Lab is currently developing the capability to use DNA fingerprinting technology to identify sources of fecal contamination in impaired surface waters.

Organic Section

The Organic Chemistry Section analyzes a variety of environmental samples for organic constituents including volatiles, semi-volatiles, PCBs, pesticides, herbicides, disinfection by-products, and petroleum products. The section utilizes gas chromatographs with electron capture detectors or flame ionization detectors, gas chromatographs with mass spectrometers, ultra-violet/visible spectrometers, Fourier transform infrared spectrometers and high-performance liquid chromatographs to analyze the samples. The section primarily follows EPA methods for analysis, but there are several methods that were developed by our laboratory staff to meet the needs of our clients such as the methane/ethane in water, glycol analysis, and petroleum product identification by UV analysis. The section tests water, soil, sludge, air canisters, air cartridges, oil, concentrated organic waste, and fish tissue samples on a routine basis, and has tested various other matrices in the past at our client's request. All samples for organic analysis must be pre-scheduled with the section personnel to ensure that your sample will be processed in a timely manner.

Radiation Measurement

Radiation Measurement Section is responsible for the analysis of environmental samples for the presence of alpha and beta particle activity and gamma photon radiation in various matrices. The section performs non-specific radiation measurements, such as gross alpha and beta determinations, as well as the determination of specific isotopes of various radionuclides such as strontium-89, strontium-90, radium-226, radium-228, tritium (hydrogen-3), radon-222, plutonium, thorium and uranium isotopes, nickel-63 and a wide range of gamma emitting isotopes. The section uses primarily EPA methods for the analysis of environmental samples but has developed several methods in-house to meet our client's needs such as strontium-90 in milk and nickel-63 in wipe samples.

Quality Assurance and Safety Section

The safety staff at the Bureau of Laboratories provides initial and ongoing safety training, Right-to-Know training, and hazardous waste training. As part of the safety program, the staff ensures that the laboratory complies with hazardous waste regulations, and conducts regular safety and hazardous waste internal inspections. The QA and Safety staff also oversees the Medical Monitoring program, investigates accidents, chemical spills, and employee safety concerns.

The QA and Safety section staff ensures that the analytical activities of the laboratory comply with regulatory and accreditation requirements. The staff conducts the initial and on-going quality assurance training, ensures that all analytical activities are accurately documented in written standard operating procedures, creates and documents all protocols related to laboratory operations, administers a proficiency testing program, conducts an internal auditing program, and oversees the chemical and data traceability program.