Standard Historical Last Updated: Oct 12, 2016
ASTM D7048-04(2010)

Standard Guide for Applying Statistical Methods for Assessment and Corrective Action Environmental Monitoring Programs

Standard Guide for Applying Statistical Methods for Assessment and Corrective Action Environmental Monitoring Programs
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Significance and Use

The principal use of this standard is in assessment, compliance and corrective action environmental monitoring programs (for example, for any facility that could potentially contaminate groundwater). The significance of the guidance is that it presents a statistical method that allows comparison of groundwater data to regulatory and/or health based limits.

Of course, there is considerable USEPA support for statistical methods applied to detection, assessment and corrective action monitoring programs that can be applied to environmental investigations. For example, the 90 % upper confidence limit (UCL) of the mean is used in SW846 (Chapter 9) for determining if a waste is hazardous. If the UCL is less than the criterion for a particular hazardous waste code, then the waste is not a hazardous waste even if certain individual measurements exceed the criterion. Similarly, in the USEPA Statistical Analysis of Groundwater Monitoring Data at RCRA Facilities Addendum to the Interim Final Guidance (1992) (2), confidence intervals for the mean and various upper percentiles of the distribution are advocated for assessment and corrective action. Interestingly, both the 1989 and 1992 USEPA guidance documents (2, 3) suggest use of the lower 95 % confidence limit (LCL) as a tool for determining whether a criterion has been exceeded in assessment monitoring. The latest USEPA guidance in this area (that is, the draft USEPA Unified Statistical Guidance) calls for use of the LCL in assessment monitoring and the UCL in corrective action. In this way, corrective action is only triggered if there is a high degree of confidence that the true concentration has exceeded the criterion or standard, whereas corrective action continues until there is a high degree of confidence that the true concentration is below the criterion or standard. This is the general approach adopted in this guide, as well.

There are several reasons why statistical methods are essential in assessment and corrective action monitoring programs. First, a single measurement indicates very little about the true concentration in the sampling location of interest, and with only one sample there is no way of knowing if the measured concentration is a typical or an extreme value. The objective is to compare the true concentration (or some interval that contains it) to the relevant criterion or standard. Second, in many cases the constituents of interest are naturally occurring (for example, metals) and the naturally existing concentrations may exceed the relevant criteria. In this case, the relevant comparison is to background (for example, off-site soil or upgradient groundwater) and not to a fixed criterion. As such, background data must be statistically characterized to obtain a statistical estimate of an upper bound for the naturally occurring concentrations so that it can be confidently determined if onsite concentrations are above background levels. Third, there is often a need to compare numerous potential constituents of concern to criteria or background, at numerous sampling locations. By chance alone there will be exceedances as the number of comparisons becomes large. The statistical approach to this problem can insure that false positive results are minimized.

Statistical methods for detection monitoring have been well studied in recent years (see Gibbons, 1994a, 1996, USEPA 1992 (2, 4, 5) and Practice D6312, formerly PS 64-96 authored by Gibbons, Brown and Cameron, 1996). Although equally important, statistical methods for assessment monitoring, Phase I and II investigations, on-going monitoring and corrective action monitoring have received less attention, (Gibbons and Coleman, 2001) (6).

The guide is summarized in Fig. 1, which provides a flow-chart illustrating the steps in developing a statistical evaluation method for assessment and corrective action programs. Fig. 1 illustrates the various decision points at which the general comparative strategy is selected, and how the statistical methods are to be selected based on site-specific considerations.


1.1 The scope and purpose of this guidance is to present a variety of statistical approaches for assessment, compliance and corrective action environmental monitoring programs. Although the methods provided here are appropriate and often optimal for many environmental monitoring problems, they do not preclude use of other statistical approaches that may be equally or even more useful for certain site-specific applications.

1.2 In the following sections, complete details of select statistical procedures used in assessment and corrective action programs for environmental monitoring (soil, groundwater, air, surface water, and waste streams) are presented.

1.3 The statistical methodology described in the following sections should be used as guidance. Other methods may also be appropriate based on site-specific conditions or for monitoring situations or media that are not presented in this document.

1.4 This practice offers an organized collection of information or a series of options and does not recommend a specific course of action. This document cannot replace education, experience and professional judgements. Not all aspects of this practice may be applicable in all circumstances. This ASTM standard is not intended to represent or replace the standard of care by which the adequacy of a given professional service must be judged without consideration of a project's many unique aspects. The word Standard in the title of this document only means that the document has been approved through the ASTM consensus process.

1.5 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory requirements prior to use.

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.09
Developed by Subcommittee: D18.21
Pages: 14
DOI: 10.1520/D7048-04R10
ICS Code: 13.020.10