Laboratory Deliverable Guidelines

Proper laboratory accreditation and documentation is an essential part of a water quality baseline's defensibility.  Remember, the ultimate goal of a water quality baseline is to provide legally and scientifically defensible data that document water quality as it exists, prior to the oil & gas drilling activities.  The bottom line is that a proper baseline requires more than just a simple list of analytes and associated results, as is commonly perceived.  There is an abundance of technical guidance regarding this subject matter.  Therefore, we attempt to summarize the most important aspects, while providing references for those who are interested in the more technical information.

Generally speaking, laboratory deliverables can be categorized as:
            1.  Results only,
            2.  Reduced and
            3.  Full.

Only a Full-data laboratory deliverable can be used to "verify" and "validate" the analytical results.  Sequentially, each category provides increasing amounts of quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) information that is necessary to assess the appropriateness and quality of the analytical data presented in a laboratory report.  Depending on the number of constituents analyzed as part of a baseline, recipients of a Full-data laboratory deliverable package should expect on the order of 300 to 600 pages for an average oil & gas drilling water quality baseline, not 1 or 2 pages. Table I provides a concise snapshot of the data that is typically included for each deliverable type.  

As can be seen in Table I, there is a substantial amount of data provided in the Full-data laboratory deliverable package, which can be thought of as the "nuts & bolts" behind the analytical results.  In fact, our experience with many individuals receiving "baselines" directly from laboratories and consultants alike, indicates that they are not even receiving all of the components of the Result only-type laboratory deliverable.  In many of these cases, only the results are received.  Anything less than a Full-data laboratory deliverable package could present a serious problem in the future, if the results are to be relied upon for litigation.  

In some instances, laboratories may suggest that results only be provided initially to the end-user, while the quality assurance/quality control information will be kept on file and provided at a later date, if needed.  This could present a serious problem, especially if the sample documentation files are found to be incomplete, corrupt or indicate discrepancies with the quality of the analytical results.  These types of issues need to be addressed immediately at the time of initial baseline sampling and not in the future when there is a chance that a water quality change has already occurred. 

Always remember, a Full-data laboratory deliverable package is essential for independent verification and validation of laboratory analytical results, even for laboratories that are state-accredited.

Table I - Major Components of Laboratory Deliverables 
 Components Results only Reduced Full
 Title, Purpose, Chain of Custody, Methodology & Results Page(s) X X X
 Table of Contents, Non-Conformance Summary  X X
 Results Qualifier Codes X X X
 Organics Sample Data - Data Summary (Form I), TIC Summary (Form I)
 Organics Sample Data - Chromatograms, Quant. Reports, Spectra (Target & TIC)  X X
 Organics QC Summary - Surrogate Recoveries (Form II), MS/MSD Summaries (Form III) X X X
 Organics QC Summary - Tuning Summaries (Form V), Method Blank Summaries (Form IV)  X X
 Organics QC Summary - Internal Standard Summaries (Form VIII)  X X
 Organics Standards Data - Initial Calibration (Form VI), Continuing Calibration (Form VII)  X X
 Organics Standards Data - Initial Calibration Chromatograms & Quant. Reports  
 Organics Standards Data - Continuing Calibration Chromatograms & Quant. Reports  
 Organics Raw QC Data - Tuning Spectra & Mass Listing  X X
 Organics Raw QC Data - Method Blank Chromatograms, Data & TIC Summaries (Form I)  X X
 Organics Raw QC Data - Method Blank Quant. Reports  
 Organics Raw QC Data - MS/MSD Data Summary, Chromatograms & Quant. Reports   X
 Organics Laboratory Logs - Extraction & Instrument   X
 Metals Sample Data - Data Summary (Form I) X X X
 Metals QC Summary - Matrix Spike (Form V Part 1), Matrix Dup (Form VI), LCS (Form VII) X X X
 Metals QC Summary - QC Samples (Form I), Serial Dilutions (Form IX) XX
 Metals QC Summary - ICP Interference Check (Form IV) 
 Metals Standards Data - Initial & Continuing Calibration Verification (Form IIA)  X X
 Metals Standards Data - Blanks, Reagents (Form III)  X X
 Metals Raw QC Data - Run Logs (Form XIII)  X X
 Metals Raw QC Data - Raw Data   X
 Metals Laboratory Logs - Digestion, Prep & Mercury Logs, TCLP Tumble Logs   X
 Wet Chemistry Sample Data - Data Summary (Form I) X X X
 Wet Chemistry Standards Data - Initial & Continuing Calibration, Raw Data   X
 Wet Chemistry Raw QC Data - QC Summary X X X
 Wet Chemistry Raw QC Data - Summary, Raw Data Sheets, pH & %Solids Logs, Distillation Logs   X
Wet Chemistry Raw QC Data - Subcontractor's Report

Nielsen & Nielsen (2006)  have authored an excellent book titled, The Essential Handbook of Ground-Water Sampling, that discusses when high-confidence analytical data and QA/QC requirements are important.  They state, "The degree of QA/QC that is implemented should therefore be proportional to the specific requirements with regard to the amount of confidence in the analytical measurements...There are various reasons to consider high-confidence analytical data important.  Obviously, if expensive decisions are going to be based on analytical data, a high degree of confidence would be desirable.  Other reasons to require a high degree of confidence include instances when human health or ecological risks are being assessed or when data are being used for litigation purposes."

The United State Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) also provides valuable guidance on what is required of laboratory packages for verification and validation.  USEPA (2001) provides a very clear and concise document that can be used to assess laboratory package completeness. They clearly state, "In order for data to be used for decision-making purposes it is essential that it be of known and documented quality.  Verification and validation of data requires that appropriate quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) procedures be followed, and that adequate documentation be included for all data generated both in the laboratory and in the field."  Furthermore, there are a number of additional USEPA documents that have been published regarding the same subject matter.  These references are provided below.


Nielsen, D. M. & G. L. Nielsen (2006)  The Essential Handbook of Ground-Water Sampling.  CRC Press, Boca Raton, 309 pgs.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2002)  Guidance on Environmental Data Verification and Data Validation.  EPA QA/G-8, Washington, D. C., 96 pgs.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2001)  Laboratory Documentation Required for Data Evaluation.  R9QA/004.2, San Francisco, 26 pgs.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (1996)  Region I, EPA-New England Data Validation Functional Guidelines for Evaluating Environmental Analyses.  61 pgs.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (1994)  Training Manual for Reviewing Laboratory Data Package Completeness.  45 pgs.