Laboratory validation is a very time consuming process as field and lab testing have prescribed procedures that must be followed. These standards are even more stringent when it comes to projects managed by the Fort Worth District’s Engineering and Construction Division.
All labs performing work on Corps projects must be validated by the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi on each testing process.
“The Central Texas Area Office Quality Assurance Facility received this validation in February 2015 in one third of the normal certification timeline,” said David Smith, quality assurance manager for the Central Texas Area Office Quality Assurance Facility.
There are two paths to USACE laboratory validation. Labs receive validation either through on-site inspection by Materials Testing Center inspectors or through an audit of accreditation documents for labs that are accredited by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory.
“The value of the validation process is to assure that materials testing for USACE construction projects is done in accordance with established standards and to assure that materials going into our projects meet the specifications,” said Alfred B. Crawley, director, Materials Testing Center at ERDC.
An on-site inspection was performed for the USACE Central Texas Area Office and its Mobile QA Lab Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. The MTC inspection included a review of the laboratory’s quality control system, other equipment, personnel and laboratory test procedures.
“Upon resolution of any deficiencies found during the inspection, validations are issued for either two or three years and can be renewed by the same process,” said Patrick Spilman, lab manager for Central Texas Area Office Quality Assurance Facility.
Quality Assurance testing must be performed by a government laboratory such as the one at Fort Hood or by the use of purchase orders for commercial laboratories to fulfill the required five percent testing the government requires. These tests are conducted in parallel with the contractor’s tests to compare and validate the results.
“Even though quality control and testing are the responsibility of the contractor, it is the policy of the Engineering and Construction Division that government quality assurance testing be conducted at a rate of at least five percent of those required of the contractor,” said Smith.
Other USACE validated labs are located in the Baltimore, Huntington, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Savannah, St. Louis, and Vicksburg districts.
“Although the Engineer Regulations do not apply to locations outside the continental United States, there is a USACE validated laboratory in the Far East District,” said Crawley.
There are many benefits to having a USACE validated facility, according to Smith. These benefits include immediate presence, immediate response for any QA test, emergency availability, on-the-spot decision making, and collaboration among contractors, other Corps districts and divisions, civilian organizations, and other military organizations.
“It took meticulous planning and a lot of hard work to ensure the testing facility met the requirements for construction materials testing using ASTM and AASHTO standards — to include having the required trained and certified personnel,” said Smith.
Some of the current testing services the Fort Hood lab performs include concrete sampling and quality tests, flexural strength tests and compression strength tests. Lab personnel also conduct various tests with soils such as moisture and density testing and lime stabilization testing. Tests for asphalt include Marshall Testing and sieve analysis of extracted aggregates.
“We can expand the use of the lab by employing qualified personnel to further increase our testing capability and expand coverage across not only the Fort Worth District but the Southwestern Division,” said Smith. “Currently we are engaged with the Tulsa District to provide testing services on The Pine Creek Lake Modification of Dam and outlet works located in Southeast Oklahoma.”