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Environmental Sampling and Analytical Methods (ESAM) Program

Data Quality and Planning

To protect public health following a wide-area chemical, biological (pathogen and/or biotoxin), or radiological contamination incident, environmental sampling and analysis results will be used to make decisions regarding clean-up of contaminated areas. Personnel that collect the environmental samples, or analyze the collected samples in a laboratory, need clear instructions on the procedures used to collect and analyze samples. Data collected as a result of sampling and analysis efforts should be of known and documented quality and specific to the incident in order to help increase confidence in the decisions made during remediation efforts and site clearance. This is accomplished through development of a well-defined and thorough sampling and analysis plan (SAP). 
During SAP development, criteria for sampling and analysis activities and associated quality of the results (data quality objectives) are defined. The SAP includes information on: 

  • background of the incident
  • scope and objectives of the sampling and analysis efforts
  • sampling and laboratory personnel and resources
  • logistics and economic resources needed
  • lines of evidence (all sources of information pertinent to the contaminant release, its impact, and efforts to reduce the contamination)
  • quality objectives
  • field sampling strategies and protocols
  • laboratory analyses and reporting considerations and protocols
  • performance and acceptance criteria
  • quality control and assessment
  • considerations for interpreting results 

SAP development is an interactive process and the SAP might require modification throughout a data collection event. Several supplemental plans inherent to sample collection and analysis should also be considered when developing the SAP. These include the: 

  • quality assurance project plan 
  • health and safety plan
  • waste management plan
  • data management plan

During collection and assessment of the results, it is important to ensure that the protocols outlined in the SAP were followed according to the established criteria.