Pennsylvania Statewide Surface Water-Quality Monitoring Network - Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances Sampling Preparation

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In partnership with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Susquehanna River Basin Commission, rigorous and innovative PFAS sampling techniques were created for low-level detections.

Collecting blanks for PFAS from freshly decontaminated equipment.

Cleaning sampling equipment in preparation for PFAS sampling

Due to the widespread presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment, low part-per-trillion screening levels cause concern for cross-contamination during sample field collection. As part of USGS national goals to collect consistent and reliable data, the Pennsylvania Water Science Center collaborated with USGS Water Mission Area and National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) to develop and validate standard operating procedures for PFAS sample equipment cleaning and collection. Cooperators at Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) Bureau of Clean Water and Susquehanna River Basin Commission took part in an equipment blanking round-robin study to ensure cleaning and sampling procedures met project specifications. Data from this study was released in ScienceBase and is being used to inform new chapters of the USGS National Field Manual that describe PFAS sampling in surface water and groundwater.  

Standard equipment cleaning and sampling procedures are used to collect PFAS for the PADEP Water-Quality Monitoring Network (WQN). Participants cleaned sampling gear and blanked all gear to ensure proper decontamination was possible prior to the sampling that occurred in September of 2019. PaWSC led a one-day training, coordinating, and blanking exercise as part of a multi-agency effort to sample for PFAS in streams and lakes around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This training was conducted as part of ongoing USGS cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in sampling the Pennsylvania Statewide Surface Water-Quality Monitoring Network (WQN). Representatives from PADEP, USGS, and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission attended a one-day sample training and coordination meeting and conducted a round-robin equipment-blanking exercise in preparation for sampling of the WQN for PFAS in September of 2019. Staff who collect samples from the WQN were briefed on recent USGS findings related to sampling equipment selection, proper cleaning and decontamination, and modifications of standard USGS sampling protocols. In addition, each agency brought equipment that was used for sampling, reviewed cleaning procedures, and collected equipment blanks to verify that standard USGS surface-water sampling procedures are appropriate for PFAS sampling. Results of the blanking round-robin were used to inform sampling procedures for statewide WQN PFAS sampling by the three agencies.