Protection and restoration efforts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are based on environmental data—measurements of pollutants, water quality, land use, algae, fish, crabs and submerged aquatic vegetation. Scientists, researchers and policy makers must be able to trust the accuracy of the data they use for evaluating and managing these natural resources. To ensure this accuracy, the Chesapeake Bay Program maintains a Quality Assurance Program in which data from over 40 agencies and research institutions are determined to be scientifically valid and comparable among researchers working in all parts of the watershed.
Quality Assurance Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements
Organizations funded by the U.S. EPA that generate, compile or use existing environmental data are required to establish and implement a quality system. Typically, grantees and cooperators describe their own quality systems in two formal documents, a Quality Management Plan and a Quality Assurance Project Plan. These plans must be approved by EPA prior to the start of monitoring or data analysis activities. See the Chesapeake Bay Program Office Grant and Cooperative Agreement Guidance for additional information.
Consensus Methods and Quality Assurance
Scientists follow proven methods and quality control procedures to collect and report environmental data. Sampling and analytical methods for water quality are selected collaboratively through the Data Integrity Workgroup. Similarly, procedures for the implementation, tracking and verification of Best Management Practices (BMPs) are developed collaboratively through the BMP Verification Committee. Agencies adopt CBP consensus methods and document them in Quality Assurance Project Plans. These plans are then approved and made available through their associated web page:
- Tidal Water Quality Methods and QA
- Nontidal Water Quality Methods and QA
- Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Monitoring Program
- Chesapeake Bay Benthic Methods and QA
- Verification of Best Management Practices (BMPs)
Quality Assessments and Performance Evaluations
Water quality data are systematically checked at each stage of production using quality control samples. In addition, quality assurance staff conduct on-site audits and monitor performance on inter-laboratory split samples, reference samples and blind audit samples. When submitted, data must pass over 160 automated checks prior to being accepted into the Chesapeake Environmental Data Repository.
Quality Assurance Organization
The Quality Assurance Program consists of an internal EPA component within the Chesapeake Bay Program Office and numerous inter-agency workgroups under the Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership. Quality assurance within the Chesapeake Bay Program Office is done by the Quality Assurance (QA) Officer, the QA Coordinator and EPA Project Officers. QA responsibilities are divided among the following staff:
- U.S. EPA Project Officers ensure that recipients of federal funds satisfy the quality requirements and are ultimately responsible for resolving deficiencies identified in technical reviews, audits and data analyses.
- Lee McDonnell, QA Officer, has the authority and responsibility for managing quality assurance activities within the U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office.
- Durga Ghosh, QA Coordinator, coordinates efforts relating to environmental data quality, reviews, quality assurance project plans, audits field and laboratory operations and assesses laboratory performance.
- Brian Burch, Data Center Manager, is responsible for ensuring all the environmental data generated through EPA funded monitoring programs have been subjected to an audit of data quality prior to being released on the Chesapeake Information Management System.
- Terry Simpson, EPA Region 3 QA Manager, reviews and approves quality management plans submitted to the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.
The Chesapeake Bay Program Office Quality Manual contains additional information on the Chesapeake Bay Program Office quality system.
Quality Assurance Resources
- USEPA Region III Quality Management Plan: Developed to address U.S.EPA quality assurance requirements and guidelines for the oversight of the Region’s environmental programs.
- Implementation of QA Requirements for Organizations Receiving EPA Financial Assistance: Quality requirements for organizations receiving EPA financial assistance.
- Clean Water Act Methods: Analytical methods promulgated under Title 40 CFR Part 136.
- The EPA Quality System: The approach used by U.S.EPA to manage the quality aspects of its environmental data collection, generation, and use.