Quality Control: Built In, or Added On? A Discussion of the Two Common Approaches in Methods for Environmental Monitoring and the Challenges Involved

Collaborative Efforts to Improve Environmental Monitoring
Oral Presentation

Prepared by , K. Roberts

Contact Information: harry.mccarty@csra.com; 703-461-2392


Awareness of the importance of quality control in environmental monitoring methods has come a long way since the formation of the USEPA in 1970 and further still since the first edition of “Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater” in 1905. We no longer take for granted that “any good chemist” knows what needs to be done to demonstrate the quality of an analytical result, or even that those running a given method have any formal training as a chemist (or a microbiologist). In the late 1970s, EPA’s Science Advisory Board recommended that EPA adopt a common set of quality control procedures in the analytical methods it produced and all of EPA’s Program Offices that publish methods eventually adopted that recommendation. Some major voluntary consensus standards bodies were already doing so, and other have done so at EPA’s urging.

However, both within EPA and across the voluntary consensus standards bodies, there is no consistency in how quality control procedures are incorporated. Some methods build quality control into the method description, while other method programs refer back to some other document for the quality control requirements, often as a project-specific concern. Either approach can produce high quality data, and we discuss some practical challenges involved in both approaches.