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Region 8

Environmental Sampling

All risk assessments are based on information about the nature and extent of chemical contamination in various environmental media at a site. EPA has developed extensive guidance on how to plan the collection of environmental data at a site so that sampling projects have a high probability of providing data that will allow reliable evaluation of exposure and risk. In addition, standard operating procedures (SOPs) have been developed for the collection and analysis of different types of media (e.g., soil, sediment, water, air, food) that may be impacted by environmental contamination. Presented below are links to documents and other sites that provide information and guidance on environmental sampling methods and strategies.

Planning for a Sampling Effort

One of the most important parts of any risk assessment is the collection of data needed to support exposure and risk calculations. If the data collection effort is not properly planned, then the data set available to the risk assessor may have a number of gaps that result in increased uncertainty. The first step in planning the sampling effort is development of the site conceptual model (SCM) (Human Health SCMs; Ecological SCMs), which identifies the environmental media (e.g., water, air, soil, dust, food) that are likely to be important sources of exposure and risk, and hence the media that require reliable data collection. In addition, it is important to carefully plan the number and location of samples that will be collected and analyzed. For this reason, EPA has developed different kinds of guidance documents on how to plan and perform sampling efforts, including guidelines for preparing quality assurance project plans (QAPPs), data quality objectives (DQOs), and sampling and analysis plans (SAPs). These include the following:

Guidance for Data Useability in Risk Assessment (OERR 9285.7-09A, April 1992)

EPA's Quality System for Environmental Data and Technology

Note: To view a list of all quality system guidance documents, click on Guidance. Alternatively, you can view quality management tools by topic; clicking on a topic of interest will take you to a page with more information and links to relevant guidance documents.

Monitoring, sampling and analysis in cleanups of underground storage tanks

Sampling Methods

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.Use of proper sampling methods is essential for ensuring that data are reliable and defensible. The following documents provide information on appropriate methods for the collection of a variety of different types of environmental media.


Preparation of Soil Sampling Protocols: Sampling Techniques and Strategies (PDF) (EPA/600/R-92/128, July 1992) (169 pp, 2.4 MB)

Residential Soil Lead Sampling Guidance Document (Region 8 Superfund Program, April 2000 Draft Final)

Surface Soil Sampling (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #SRC-OGDEN-02 (Rev. #0), June 14, 2001)

Indoor Dust

High Volume Indoor Dust Sampling at Residences for Determination of Risk-Based Exposure to Metals (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP No. SRC-DUST-01 (Rev. #0), April 1, 2004)


Sediment Sampling (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #SRC-OGDEN-04 (Rev. #0), June 14, 2001)

Sediment Sampling (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-02, September 2003)

Sediment Sampling (PDF) (EPA, SOP #2016 (Rev. #0.0), November 17, 1994) (11 pp, 82 K)

Sub-Slab/Soil Gas

Development of a Sub-Slab Gas Sampling Protocol to Support Assessment of Vapor Intrusion (PDF) (3 pp, 198 K)

Surface Water

Surface Water Collection (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-01, September 2003)

Pore Water

Porewater Sampling from a Micro Push Point or Mini Piezometer (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #SRC-OGDEN-01 rev.0, July 13, 2001)

Sediment Porewater Sampling using a Micro Push Point (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-03, September 2003)


Non-Lethal Fish Tissue Plug Collection (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-07, September 2003)

Fish Collection by Seining or Electrofishing (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-06, September 2003)

Fish Collection by Seining or Electrofishing (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #SRC-OGDEN-03 rev.0, June 13, 2001)


Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling & Processing (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-04, September 2003)

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling and Processing (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #SRC-OGDEN-09, June 14, 2001)

Standard Operating Procedure for Benthic Invertebrate Field Sampling (PDF) (EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, LG406 Revision 07, March 2002) (7 pp, 177 K)

Aquatic Plants

Aquatic Plant Collection (Syracuse Research Corporation, SOP #EH-05, September 2003); available as hard copy only

Garden Vegetables

Garden Vegetable Sampling at Residences for Determination of Risk-based Exposure to Metals (ISSI, SOP No. ISSI-VBI70-06 Rev. #0, September 10, 1999)

Uptake of Lead and Arsenic by Garden Vegetables - Study Report for the Kennecott Site, Salt Lake County, Utah (EPA, February 3, 1995)

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