Quality Assurance






VI. SUMMARY   §11.6

§11.1      I. BACKGROUND

Quality assurance (QA) activities and processes ensure that environmental monitoring data meet user requirements. Quality control (QC) procedures verify that Berkeley Lab attains prescribed standards of performance for environmental monitoring. This chapter contains a summary discussion of QA and QC activities performed routinely by the environmental monitoring program in support of the Site Environmental Report.

Berkeley Lab’s policy on QA is documented in the Operating and Assurance Plan (OAP).1 The OAP consists of a set of operating principles used to support internal organizations in achieving consistent, safe, and high-quality performance in their work activities. OAP principles are applied to individual programs using a graded approach, with consideration given to factors such as the program’s environmental, health, and safety consequences; its programmatic significance; and its mission.

In addition to the OAP, the monitoring and sampling activities and results presented in this report were conducted in accordance with Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Monitoring Plan (EMP)2 and applicable DOE3 and US/EPA4 guidance. When special QA/QC requirements are necessary for environmental monitoring (such as NESHAPs stack monitoring) a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) is developed and implemented.

As discussed in §3.9, the Environmental Protection Agency has requested additional sampling of the air, water, and soil in and around the Laboratory to help determine whether to include Berkeley Lab on the Superfund List. QAPPs for this EPA-requested sampling will be developed in 1999.


Berkeley Lab’s environmental monitoring program collects samples in accordance with the specifications of the EMP. Documented implementation procedures are used for performing sample collection. These procedures prescribe sampling collection methods and related requirements for obtaining representative matrix samples. The following requirements are integrated into the sample collection procedures:


Berkeley Lab utilizes on-site and off-site (contract) laboratories to analyze samples for the environmental monitoring program. Both types of laboratories must meet demanding QA/QC specifications and certifications5 that were established to define, monitor, and document laboratory performance. The QA/QC data provided by these laboratories are incorporated into the data quality-assessment processes.

The following list is a summary of QA/QC requirements that analytical laboratories supporting the environmental monitoring program must meet:

    1. Control limits;
    2. Method detection limit studies;
    3. Matrix spikes, matrix spike duplicates, and laboratory control samples;
    4. Method blanks;
    5. Surrogates;
    6. Initial and ongoing calibration checks; and
    7. Sample duplicates.
    1. Case narratives;
    2. Chain-of-custody documentation;
    3. Sample and hard-copy retention; and
    4. Summary of results, QC data, and data validation (electronic data deliverables).


Each set of data (batch) received from the analytical laboratory is systematically evaluated and compared to established data quality objectives. Data quality is assessed for each analytical batch before the results can be authenticated and accepted into the environmental monitoring database. Categories of data quality objectives include accuracy, precision, representativeness, comparability, and completeness. When possible, quantitative criteria are used to define and assess data quality.

To perform the large number of QC checks necessary to determine whether data quality objectives have been achieved, the electronic data deliverables provided by the analytical laboratories are uploaded into a Berkeley Lab environmental monitoring database. This database is used to perform computer-automated data quality checks that interrogate the laboratory data package for QC results. Data quality discrepancies are flagged, investigated, and resolved by Berkeley Lab staff. Following the automated data validation/verification checks and any necessary discrepancy resolution, Berkeley Lab environmental monitoring specialists perform final data authentication by reviewing the data and QC results before they are accepted.


To verify that environmental monitoring activities are adequate and effective, internal and external oversight is performed as required on specific environmental monitoring programs. Internal oversight activities consist of technical QA assessments performed by the Environmental Protection Group and internal independent assessments conducted by the Berkeley Lab Office of Assessment and Assurance.

DOE’s external oversight of Berkeley Lab programs is performed through the Operational Awareness Program.6 Operational awareness activities include field orientation, meetings, audits, workshops, document and information system reviews, and day-to-day communications. DOE criteria for performance evaluation include federal, state, and local regulations with general applicability to DOE facilities and applicable DOE requirements. In addition, US/EPA conducts external audits of the NESHAPs monitoring program under 40 CFR 61, Subpart H.

§11.6      VI. SUMMARY

Quality assurance for environmental monitoring at Berkeley Lab is a continuous and comprehensive process designed to ensure that monitoring results meet documented requirements. All results generated and reported by the environmental monitoring program undergo a stringent data quality assessment to verify that data quality objectives are met. Throughout the QA process, data quality checks and communication links are in place to identify, document, and correct data quality discrepancies.