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Updated study reporting levels (SRLs) for trace-element data collected for the California Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program Priority Basin Project, October 2009–October 2018

April 16, 2020

Groundwater samples have been collected in California as part of statewide investigations of groundwater quality conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey for the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Priority Basin Project (PBP) since 2004. The GAMA-PBP is being conducted in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board to assess and monitor the quality of groundwater resources used for public and domestic drinking-water supply and to improve public knowledge of groundwater quality in California. Quality-control samples (including but not limited to field, equipment, and source-solution blanks) were collected to evaluate and quantify the quality of the groundwater sample results.

The GAMA-PBP previously determined study reporting levels (SRLs) for trace-element results based primarily on field blanks collected in California from May 2004 through March 2013. SRLs are raised reporting levels used to reduce the likelihood of reporting false detections attributable to contamination bias. The purpose of this report is to identify any changes in the pattern or magnitude of concentrations or detections in field blanks since the last evaluation that would require changing or ending the use of SRLs implemented in October 2009. Constituents analyzed were aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, lithium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silver, strontium, thallium, uranium, vanadium, and zinc.

For this review, data from 167 field blanks collected from October 2009 through October 2018 by the GAMA-PBP for trace elements were compiled. Based on a consistent pattern of decreasing cobalt and manganese concentrations in field blanks from 2009 to 2013, the GAMA-PBP decided to reevaluate all trace-element SRLs, effectively setting an end date for previously defined SRLs. Beginning October 2013, SRLs would be determined from field-blank data collected through October 2018. The detection frequency and upper limit of potential contamination bias (BD-90/90) were determined from field blanks for each trace element. The BD-90/90, that is, the upper 90-percent confidence limit of the 90th percentile concentration of potential extrinsic contamination, was calculated by assuming the binomial probability distribution. These results were compared to each constituent’s detection limit to determine whether an SRL was necessary to minimize the potential for detections in the groundwater samples, attributed principally to contamination bias. Results of the evaluation were used to set SRLs for trace-element data collected by the GAMA-PBP between October 2013 and October 2018. Trace elements prescribed an SRL based on this review were hexavalent chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, and zinc. This review also resulted in the removal of SRLs from iron, manganese, molybdenum, and nickel. Although an SRL for hexavalent chromium could not be evaluated in the earlier reviews because the data were not collected regularly until 2015, one was established herein as 0.34 micrograms per liter (µg/L). The SRL for cobalt, as previously implemented, had been to reject all results; it was changed to 0.16 µg/L following a reduction in cobalt field-blank detection frequency resulting from mitigation steps, starting in 2014, aimed at reducing contamination bias introduced by high-capacity capsule filters used during sample collection. The SRL for copper did not change, and the SRL for lead changed very little based on this review. Lastly, the SRL for zinc was lowered from 6.2 µg/L to 3.9 µg/L.

Publication Year 2020
Title Updated study reporting levels (SRLs) for trace-element data collected for the California Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program Priority Basin Project, October 2009–October 2018
DOI 10.3133/sir20205034
Authors George L. Bennett V
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2020-5034
Index ID sir20205034
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center