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Design and evaluation of a field study on the contamination of selected volatile organic compounds and wastewater-indicator compounds in blanks and groundwater samples

Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5027

National Water-Quality Assessment Program
By:
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Abstract

The Field Contamination Study (FCS) was designed to determine the field processes that tend to result in clean field blanks and to identify potential sources of contamination to blanks collected in the field from selected volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and wastewater-indicator compounds (WICs). The VOCs and WICs analyzed in the FCS were detected in blanks collected by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program during 1996–2008 and 2002–08, respectively. To minimize the number of variables, the study required ordering of supplies just before sampling, storage of supplies and equipment in clean areas, and use of adequate amounts of purge-and-trap volatile-grade methanol and volatile pesticide-grade blank water (VPBW) to clean sampling equipment and to collect field blanks.

Blanks and groundwater samples were collected during 2008–09 at 16 sites, which were a mix of water-supply and monitoring wells, located in 9 States. Five different sample types were collected for the FCS at each site: (1) a source-solution blank collected at the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) using laboratory-purged VPBW, (2) source-solution blanks collected in the field using laboratory-purged VPBW, (3) source-solution blanks collected in the field using field-purged VPBW, (4) a field blank collected using field-purged VPBW, and (5) a groundwater sample collected from a well. The source-solution blank and field-blank analyses were used to identify, quantify, and document extrinsic contamination and to help determine the sources and causes of data-quality problems that can affect groundwater samples.

Concentrations of compounds detected in FCS analyses were quantified and results were stored in the USGS National Water Information System database after meeting rigorous identification and quantification criteria. The study also utilized information provided by laboratory analysts about evidence indicating the presence of selected compounds, using less rigorous identification criteria than is required for reporting data to the National Water Information System database. For the FCS, these data are considered adequate to indicate "evidence of presence," and were used only for diagnostic purposes. Evidence of VOCs and WICs at low concentrations near or less than the long-term method detection level can indicate a contamination problem that could affect future datasets if method detection levels were ever to be lowered.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Design and evaluation of a field study on the contamination of selected volatile organic compounds and wastewater-indicator compounds in blanks and groundwater samples
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2011-5027
Year Published:
2011
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center, Office of Water Quality, Branch of Analytical Serv (NWQL), Office of the AD Water, Indiana Water Science Center, South Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
Description:
x, 85 p.
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N