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The Standard – April/May 2014


In This Issue:
Groundwater Compliance Sampling and Analysis for Methane and Other Light Gases – Inconsistencies and Concerns Across the Board
MCHM Spill Into The Elk River – The Need For Reference Standards
Something You May Not Know About Us
US EPA Approves ASTM E1527-13 For All Appropriate Inquiry
Average American Body Weight Increase Will Impact PA DEP MSCs
Your Air Monitoring Program: Is It Hitting The Mark?
Maybe You Can “Make This Stuff Up”
US EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Activities
What Is The Cost Of A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?
SW-846 Update “V”

Groundwater Compliance Sampling and Analysis for Methane and Other Light Gases – Inconsistencies and Concerns Across the Board

Many of Environmental Standards, Inc.’s gas exploration clients have had difficulty interpreting the accuracy of light gas analysis data being generated by their contracted consultants and analytical laboratories.  Split samples between regulatory agencies, property owners, and other interested parties routinely yield significantly different results.  In addition, the current lack of certified reference materials (CRMs) for light gases confounds the issues associated with intra-laboratory comparisons creating concerns when action limits are being mandated for methane by overseeing regulatory agencies.

As the term “light gas” implies, there are numerous opportunities for analyte losses during sampling and similar opportunities for both low and high biases for the analysis of important compliance samples.  An explanation of the chemistry of lights gases is offered.  In cases where light gas sampling and analysis are being used for compliance purposes, critical auditing of sampling teams and laboratory practices by Environmental Standards’ QA personnel has shown to minimize these comparative variables.

Most dissolved light hydrocarbons (e.g., C1-C4) analyses for groundwater samples have been based upon a static headspace analysis method where equilibrium conditions are established between the gas and water phase after an aliquot of sample is removed from the sampling vessel.  At equilibrium, the gas phase is measured using gas chromatography and the initial water concentration is calculated using Henry’s Law (Carroll 1991, Sander 1999, and Smith 2007).  The US EPA published such a procedure (Kampbell, et al. 1991) that has become known in the environmental community as “Method RSK-175.”  The original publication has gone through a number of revisions with the most recent revision being RSKSOP-175 Version 5, dated October 2010.  Integral to this method is US EPA RSKSOP-194, with a recent Version 4 dated April 2010.  RSKSOP-194 contains the GC calibration and analysis steps, while RSKSOP-175 describes the static headspace preparation and calculations.

For the expanded version of this article and information on Environmental Standards’ program to audit contractor sampling teams and analytical laboratories, contact Senior Technical Chemist David Gratson, CEAC at 281.752.9782.

MCHM Spill Into The Elk River – The Need For Reference Standards

Do you store bulk chemicals?  Do you have, or have quick access to, pure reference material of these stored chemicals?  The January 9, 2014, spill by Freedom Industries of approximately 10,000 gallons of crude 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia, contaminated the water supply for over 300,000 residents.  This spill instantly caught national attention and raised many concerns over the environmental regulatory structure in West Virginia, the largely unknown toxicity of MCHM, and the safety of the water supply.

Source: Wikipedia. Charleston's downtown skyline (pictured) viewed from the south bank of the Kanawha River, of which the Elk River is a tributary.
Source: Wikipedia. Charleston’s downtown skyline (pictured) viewed from the south bank of the Kanawha River, of which the Elk River is a tributary.

Early in the spill response, an analytical method was needed to determine the concentration of MCHM in the drinking water supply.  More importantly, a pure analytical reference standard was needed to ensure calibration of the analytical instruments so that accurate results could be reported.  No such pure standards were immediately available, so the crude MCHM from the site tanks was used for reference material.

There are over 81.9 million unique organic and inorganic substances in the CAS RegistrySM.  Many organic chemicals are stored in bulk.  If your company stores bulk chemicals susceptible to spills that are unique and not commonly analyzed in water, soil, air, or other environmental media, you may consider procuring pure reference material of the chemicals to help in a rapid environmental response.  Contact David R. Blye, Principal Chemist, at 610.935.5577 to discuss how Environmental Standards can assist your rapid response team.

Something You May Not Know About Us

Vitale Scientific Associates, LLCWe know our clients are smart, but there’s something you may not know about us.
Environmental Standards, Inc. is the parent company of Vitale Scientific Associates, LLC, a firm that offers the same high-quality consulting that you’ve come to expect from us for many other applications outside of the environmental arena.

Vitale Scientific Associates, LLC

Vitale Scientific Associates, LLC (VSA) provides services to companies in need of high-quality scientific data. VSA assures quality in scientific data products and processes, responding to immediate data and information quality needs, and developing plans to prevent future client liabilities, allowing companies producing goods and materials (e.g., food and beverage, pharmaceutical, consumer, oil and gas, and chemical companies) to manage their core operations on the basis of sound, defensible information.

Learn more about VSA at and check back often for timely news updates on topics such as the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), product recalls, California Proposition 65, and product purity and testing related items.
Please pass this along to your product quality and product stewardship teams.

US EPA Approves ASTM E1527-13 For All Appropriate Inquiry

The much debated and talked about 2013 update to the All Appropriate Inquiries Rule (AAI Rule) has finally been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).  On December 30, 2013, the US EPA published a final rule adopting ASTM E1527-13 (Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process) as a standard for satisfying the AAI Rule.  The AAI Rule applies to landowner liability defenses under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  In short, ASTM E1527-13 makes four notable changes to the standard versus the 2005 version:

  1. the definitions of a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) and Historical REC (HREC) have been revised and the new standard adds a new definition for a Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC);
  2. the new version adds standards for evaluating the potential for vapor intrusion;
  3. the new version revises standards for regulatory file review; and
  4. the revised standard adds a definition for “de minimis conditions” that do not present a threat to human health or the environment, or trigger regulatory action.

Final approval of ASTM E1527-13 has undergone a rocky approval process since the standard was first adopted by the US EPA on August 15, 2013.  In the initial approval of the revised standard, the US EPA adopted ASTM E1527-13 as an alternative (not as a replacement) to ASTM E1527-05.  This meant that any parties wishing to comply with the AAI Rule had to choose which standard to use and whether or not the differences between the two standards would have an impact on the assessment.  Based on many adverse comments about having two standards to choose from, the US EPA withdrew the direct final rule for amendment to the AAI Rule on October 29, 2013.  The December 30, 2013 amendment does not delete the reference to ASTM E1527-05, which means it is still eligible for demonstration of compliance with the AAI Rule.  However, in the preamble to the amendment, the US EPA announced plans to remove references to the old standard in the near future and recommends that practitioners begin using the new standard.

Average American Body Weight Increase Will Impact PA DEP MSCs

During 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
(PA DEP) is expected to revise its Statewide Health Standards [Medium Specific Concentration (MSC)] under its Brownfields Redevelopment program (usually referred to as Act 2).  For a regulated substance, which is a systemic toxicant, the ingestion numeric value for that substance was calculated using the appropriate residential or nonresidential exposure assumptions according to the following equation:



In addition to re-evaluating a chemical’s toxicity, based on the most recent toxicological data available (CF in the standard risk assessment equation noted above), the State will examine the impacts of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA’s) 2011 published adjustment to body weight (BW) in the MSC equation.  In 2011, the US EPA reported that the presumed average weight of an American is, not surprisingly, increasing.

In the US EPA’s latest version (2011) of the Exposure Factors Handbook it recommends that the mean body weight value for adults should be 80 kg; different from the 70 kg historically applied in US EPA risk assessments and the weight used in the BW term for developing the original MSCs.  US EPA’s assessors are encouraging toxicologists to use values that most accurately reflect the exposed population.  As a result, PA DEP’s Science Advisory Board will be adjusting statewide-MSCs to reflect the change in body weight from 70 kg (154 pounds) to 80 kg (176 pounds).

The specific impact of the body weight change on any one chemical’s MSC will be predicated on off-setting changes in chemical toxicity.  In the interim, clients may be able to take advantage of the body weight change by filing a Notice of Intent to Remediate, using a site-specific standard and an 80 kg body weight term in the equations used to calculate MSCs.  Presumably, PA DEP will be willing to accept the body weight term change because the value is consistent with US EPA’s latest recommendations.

Environmental Standards will publish an announcement when the new PA DEP MSCs are published.

Your Air Monitoring Program: Is It Hitting The Mark?

Is Your Air Monitoring Program Hitting the Mark?

Is your emergency response air monitoring program hitting the mark?  Not sure?  Considering that air monitoring is typically the first media of concern that communities, clean-up workers, first responders, and regulators are concerned about, your answer should be yes.  This is especially true for any sizable or high profile release.  You do not want to give opposing counsel any free assistance, which is exactly what you are doing by not producing bullet proof air monitoring and sampling data.  Unlike soil, sediment, and water, the air pathway can instantaneously affect individuals unfortunate enough to be located nearby.

While most emergency response air contractors perform an admirable job, quality is often second tier to the myriad of challenges an emergency response can generate – from comprehensive community monitoring coverage, through establishing exclusion zones and rapidly reporting data, to the logistics of arranging travel logistics for people from around the country.  Typically, the primary focus of the emergency response air contractor is one of worker and community safety, as it should be.  It’s usually only after the emergency response winds down that data questions begin to arise.  Your emergency response air contractor may be long gone, moved on to the next emergency response, and you are stuck answering questions about data integrity and data quality from community activist groups, opposing counsel, and regulators.  Questions such as:

  • How do you know your emergency response air contractor did what they said they did, because they did not take comprehensive field notes?
  • Have you noticed that an incorrect conversion factor was used for all this monitoring data?
  • Did your project manager laboratory perform analysis under conditions in accordance with 40 CFR or NIOSH methods (i.e., appropriate static, temperature, and humidity controls)?
  • Were the appropriate amount of field and laboratory quality control samples collected to quantify the precision and accuracy of the collected air data?

emergencyresponseYour firm may not have the available resources to thoroughly manage your emergency response air contractor as you do during normal business operations.  Environmental Standards experts are available for rapid deployment nationally and can manage quality assurance for you.  We will work with the emergency response contractor and air laboratory – reviewing their plans and methods, performing field oversights, submitting proficiency reports, reviewing laboratory data packages, performing data validation, and leveraging our vast knowledge of laboratory capabilities to bulletproof your data.  Million dollar decisions are being made based on the air data, not to mention potentially millions more in potential future litigation – you only get a small window of opportunity to gather high quality air data, Environmental Standards will make sure it is right the first time.

A single lawsuit can cost millions; an emergency response incident is likely the highest exposure your facility has to lawsuits.  Most emergency responses with an air monitoring component end up in litigation.  In more simple terms: Air Monitoring equals Litigation.  Can you defend your data?  Environmental Standards has performed the role of quality assurance contractor on several of the largest environmental emergency responses of the past 20 years.  While we cannot stop litigation from happening, we can ensure that you are prepared and armed with high quality, defensible, bulletproof data.

Does your Emergency Response Air Monitoring Program need quality assurance oversight? Your answer should be a resounding “YES!”

Maybe You Can “Make This Stuff Up”

John Beale

Press reports noted recently that a high-ranking United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) official bilked taxpayers out of nearly $1 million by pretending to be a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent and was sentenced to 32 months in prison for this misleading.  Judge Ellen Huvelle sentenced John Beale, a former US EPA senior policy adviser, to the prison term as well as two years of supervised release.  Mr. Beale already paid $886,000 in restitution and now owes more than a half-million dollars in forfeiture – he is expected to pay the Justice Department soon.

The case stood out as one of the more bizarre schemes run against the government in recent memory.  Beale allegedly billed the government for first-class plane tickets and, for years, was paid for a “spy job” he never actually had.  Beale’s deceit began more than 10 years ago and was largely based on his idea to collect unearned pay over roughly 13 years – essentially by saying he needed to take off one workday a week from the US EPA for CIA missions.

In 2000, Beale started indicating on his US EPA electronic calendar that he was working with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.  He told a US EPA manager that he had been assigned to an interagency, special advisory group and continued to take the extra day off until 2008, at which point he took off for about six months, telling his US EPA managers and fellow employees that he was working on a research project or working for “Langley,” where the CIA is based.

Beale also took advantage of the government with his reported “longstanding agreement” with the US EPA that he fly first-class due to a false back injury.  One flight to London cost taxpayers $14,000, when a coach ticket would have cost just $1,000, according to reported court documents.  He was able to get away with the fraud for so long because of “an absence of even basic internal controls at the US EPA,” said Inspector General Arthur Elkins, whose office unraveled Beale’s long-running deception.  Beale retired just before the probe began.

Beale came under suspicion when current US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
expressed concerns about his expenses.  Assistant Inspector General Patrick Sullivan, who led the internal review, said he interviewed about 40 people, only one of whom ever suspected Beale’s life as a “secret agent” was a fraud.  Investigators compared Beale’s cellphone records to his travel expenses and determined that when he claimed to be in Pakistan and other locations on CIA business, he was really at his Cape Cod vacation home.

US EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Activities

epa_logoThe US EPA conducted a web conference on January 28, 2014, to summarize their December 9, 2013 Technical Roundtable regarding US EPA’s study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.  The stated study goals were to assess whether hydraulic fracturing may impact drinking water resources and to identify driving factors that may affect the severity and frequency of potential impacts.  More specifically, the US EPA study focused on answering questions relating to the potential impacts on drinking water from water acquisition, chemical mixing, well injection, flowback and produced water, and wastewater treatment and waste disposal operations.

As an update on its study progress, the US EPA indicated that since November 2012, the US EPA conducted a series of technical roundtable discussions with technical representatives from key stakeholder groups.  Additionally, since November 2012, the US EPA conducted a series of technical workshops, engaging subject matter experts to discuss topics relating to analytical chemistry methods, well construction/operation and subsurface modeling, wastewater treatment and related modeling, water acquisition modeling, and case studies.  Three chemistry quality assurance technical experts – Rock J. Vitale, CEAC; Ruth L. Forman, CEAC; and David I. Thal, CEAC – attended and presented the workshop on analytical considerations and continue to be actively engaged in the topic.  Furthermore, the US EPA has funded 17 research projects that are expected to produce more than 30 peer-reviewed journal papers or US EPA reports.  Most of these papers will undergo an internal US EPA review and an external journal peer-review.  To date, five papers have been published in the science journals relating to either subsurface migration modeling or analytical method development.

The US EPA is preparing a Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment Report.  The report will utilize scientific literature and reports with an emphasis on peer-reviewed literature; government reports and technical papers; results from the Agency’s on-going research activities; information submitted by stakeholders, technical roundtables and workshops, the US EPA docket, and comments submitted to the Science Advisory Board as the sources for its report.  The report is expected to discuss the impacts relating to normal operations reflecting modern typical practices, potential and actual accidents or unintended events, potential immediate, short-term and long-term impacts, include available information from multiple US EPA regions, and considering multiple scales such as: single wells, clusters of wells, watersheds, and shale plays.  The intended use of the US EPA’s report was stated to contribute to the understanding of potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources; to identify pathways of greatest concern; to inform and promote dialogue among federal, tribal, state, and local government entities, industry, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders; and to identify knowledge gaps and information needs.  Once the report is drafted toward the end of 2014, it will undergo internal review prior to release, and then go through further interagency review, Science Advisory Board review, and obtain public review and comment prior to the publication of the final document.

In its presentation, the US EPA also announced a multi-year effort to ensure coordination and collaboration between the US EPA, the US Department of Energy, and the US Department of Interior, to develop timely policy-relevant science and technology research that informs the design of the policy options.  Goals of the multi-Agency effort include outlining an approach to identify and address the highest research needs associated with safely and prudently developing Unconventional Oil & Gas resources, providing the foundation for engaging stakeholders in identifying and prioritizing the challenges and benefits associated with Unconventional Oil & Gas production activities, and guiding the Agencies in designing and implementing future efforts including the creation of detailed research plans to address priority topics.

Some of the next steps that the US EPA plans to take include continuing to conduct research, analyzing information and literature, and engaging stakeholders.  The US EPA will post published papers on the study website.  The US EPA also plans to reconvene and hold a roundtable in 2014.  The US EPA’s study website is

What Is The Cost Of A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?

Environmental Standards recently started a blog here on our website.  Blog posts will be written by our technical professionals on a weekly basis and will cover a variety of environmental topics.  Visit our website and leave your feedback for our authors.  The article below, written by Principal Geoscientist Gerald L. Kirkpatrick, P.G., was published on our blog.  Visit for more.

“How much does it cost for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?”

I am asked that question weekly.  I certainly don’t want to be unhelpful, but it depends.  At Environmental Standards, Inc. a “typical” Phase I ESA, undertaken using ASTM 1527-13 – the latest guidance available – usually runs around $2,000 to $3,000.  That said, at complex facilities, I have had to charge as much as $45,000 or more for Phase Is; sometimes even more for environmental site assessment projects done outside the United States.

What is the cost of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?

Why do some of Environmental Standards’ competitors charge less? I do not know.  Expenses alone (database searches, agency visits, site visits) now run close to $1,000, and the actual time for a site visit (usually at least 4 hours if done properly) can be costly.  If a consultant says a Phase I will cost anything less than $2,000, be very careful.  The product (report) you receive may not be compliant with regulations or provide you the protection you need.

Questions to ask a consultant when inquiring about a Phase I:

  • Will you visit the environmental agency if there are files available?
  • How long will you spend on site?
  • What are the qualifications of the person doing the site visit and writing the report (not the person signing off on the report, but rather the person actually doing the work)?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you ever been sued?

Phase I costs vary with the nature of the property (size, use, and regulatory history) as well as the client’s needs (refinance, purchase, risk tolerance).  Those and other factors need to be taken into account to properly complete a Phase I and provide our clients real value.  A properly completed Phase I ESA can avoid thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in mistakes, unnecessary risk exposures, and regulatory fines.

Many property investors view a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment no differently than they view a title report – just a document to have such that a box can be checked during a commercial real estate closing.  I encourage those of you who think that way to reevaluate your perspective.

SW-846 Update “V”

On October 23, 2013, the US EPA posted regulatory notice of availability of Update “V” of the 3rd Edition of US EPA’s SW-846 document entitled “Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste, Physical/Chemical Methods.”  The Update includes 23 new and revised analytical methods.  These methods were deemed by the Agency as appropriate for monitoring compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous and non-hazardous waste regulations.  Because these methods are not required by the RCRA hazardous waste regulations, Update V is issued as guidance.  In addition to the new and revised analytical methods, Update V includes revisions to Chapters 1-5, an Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) Policy Statement, and other quality assurance/quality control guidance on topics including the lower limit of quantitation, relative standard error, and initial demonstration of proficiency.  Public comment to the posting was due to US EPA in January 2014.  The Agency is now considering public comment and will place the new and revised methods, guidance, and chapters in the SW-846 Method compendium.  Once the notice of final publication of Update V is posted in the Federal Register, Environmental Standards will summarize the changes in its next newsletter.