Environmental monitoring covers a large field of testing.  The media include soil, groundwater, surface water, air, sediments, stormwater, and industrial wastewater.  The reasons for environmental monitoring are even more numerous.  From the regulatory side, it can be done for a permit application or exemption, a sanitary sewer pre-treatment ordinance, specific conditions of a permit, government regulated cleanups, investigation of spills or discharges, complaints from neighbors or employees, or regulatory citations.  In the non-regulatory area, it can be done to exercise due diligence as a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment, to prevent pollution, or to be proactive and demonstrate the company’s status as a good citizen who is concerned about the environment and the community.

environmental monitoring

There are two basic types of environmental monitoring.  The first type is done in situ (i.e., measured in the field directly on the sample media) most commonly with electronic meters, while the second type involves samples which are collected in the field and typically analyzed in a laboratory.  There are other types of readings taken in the field such as Secchi disks to determine transparency of surface water and visible evaluation of emissions from smoke stacks to determine the opacity of the smoke in comparison to allowable limits in air permits.

Samples can be discrete or grab samples or they can be composite samples collected over specified time internals or collected in proportion to the flow of a source.  Samples can be collected manually directly into the sample bottle or first into a sample collection device such as a bailer or vertical sampler which is then transferred into the sample bottle.  There are also automated samplers such as composite samplers and electric sampling devices such as peristaltic pumps, bladder pumps, and centrifugal pumps.  There are also samplers for specific tasks such as dredge samplers and corers for sediments and stack probes for air emissions.

Analysis of samples includes biological, physical, and chemical parameters.  Examples of biological analyses are benthic invertebrate identification, bioassays, zooplankton, and algal assays.  Physical analyses include particulate matter in air, turbidity (i.e., particulates in water), and temperature.  Chemical analyses include nutrients, pH, dissolved oxygen (typically done in the field, not laboratory), radioactivity, solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides, inorganic chemicals, and organic chemicals.  Regulatory standards for these analytes can be found in various sections of Chapter 62 in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C., http://dos.myflorida.com/offices/administrative-code-and-register/) enforced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  Specific air testing methods are found in various Parts in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR,  https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/ECFR?page=browse.) enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In designing environmental monitoring, first, the objective must be identified.  It may be to meet regulatory requirements, to complete due diligence, or to determine if there has been a release of pollutants.  After that, the scope of work must be developed to meet the objective.  That will involve identifying the frequency of monitoring, types of samples, methods, analytes, interpretation of results, and report of results.  Standard Operating Procedures should be followed to insure the accuracy and precision of the data.  Equipment calibrations, Chain-of-Custody forms, and Field Book records need to be part of the monitoring.  Analysis of the samples should be done by a laboratory certified by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP).  If the monitoring is not done in this manner, the results may be suspect, inaccurate, and inadmissable.

If it seems too daunting, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can help you with your environmental monitoring.  We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with over 32 years of experience.  We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away ([email protected]).  Contact us today!