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Methods and Data Comparability Board Meeting Minutes

October 23 - 26, 2000

Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV

Meeting Minutes

Executive Summary





Herb Brass                        USEPA/OW/Co-chair

Charlie Peters                    USGS/WRD, Co-chair

Gil Dichter                         Idexx

Katherine Alben               NYDH/SUNY

Chuck Spooner                 USEPA/OW

John Klein                         USGS/WRD

Cliff Annis                         Merck/CMA

Andy Eaton                      Montgomery Watson/Std Methods

Dale Robertson                USGS/WRD

Steve Billets                      USEPA/NERL

Sam Stribling                     Tetra Tech, Inc.

Bob Berger                        EBMUD

Dan Sullivan                     USGS/WRD

Larry Keith                        WPI

Jerry Diamond                  Tetra Tech, Inc.

Ellen McCarron                Florida DEP

Lynn Singleton                 WA Dept of Ecology

Bart Simmons                    CA EPA

Dennis McChesney         USEPA Region 2

Richard Ayers                  VADEQ

Ed Santoro                        DRBC/NJDEP

Elane Streets                     Argonne, Nat’l Lab

Harold Aroudel                USGS NWQ Lab

Jerry Parr                           Catalyst

Rick Dunn                         Hach

Mike Miller                        WI DNR

Sherwin Beck                    Tetra Tech, Inc.

Bernie Malo                      ASTM

Chuck Job                         USEPA/OW

Jim Boiani                          Dynamac

Ann Pitchford                   USEPA/NERL

Glenn Patterson                USGS/WRD

Lynn Bradley                    APHL

Roger Stewart                   VA DEQ



                     Steering Committee call — 11/20/00            1 PM EST

                     Outreach Workgroup call — 11/21/00         1 PM EST (include Linda, Toni, and “yellow page” folks)


                     General Board call — 12/4/00                     1 PM EST

                     Board Meeting — 1/8 - 1/10/01                  Duck Key, FL

                     Board Meeting — week of 6/4/01                ????

                     Board Meeting – week of 9/10/01                Madison, WI (with Council)

                     Andy Eaton will be leaving the Board after the January meeting having completed a 3-year term.  He will still serve in a workgroup capacity.  Cliff Annis will succeed Andy as Chair of the PBMS Workgroup.

                     Need to contact Keith Smith (with Std Methods) to determine desire/ability to participate on the Board after Andy leaves.


Senior Management Briefing Meeting — 9/21/00


Herb summarized results of a meeting with senior EPA and USGS managers concerning Board activities, status, and upcoming tasks.  Among those present were Elizabeth Fellows (USEPA/OW - Director of Watersheds Division), Margaret Heber (USEPA/Director of Monitoring Branch), Bob King (USEPA - STORET), Bob Hirsch (USGS - Assoc. Director of Water), Tim Miller (USGS – Chief of  NAWQA), Janice Ward (USGS, Chief of Water Quality), and Toni Johnson (Exec. Sec. of NWQM Council).


There was interest in applying additional resources (both FTE and extramural) to the Council and Board in FY01 from both EPA and USGS.  Chuck, John and others are preparing a Work Plan for the Council and Board for review by both EPA and USGS senior management.


Herb noted that responses were positive regarding the Board’s progress.  As the primary funding agencies of the Council and Board, USGS and EPA have certain areas they would like to see addressed.  USGS desired more activity on field methods, nutrients, and sediments.  EPA expressed interest in these as well.  Some of these activities have already been initiated by the Board.


Herb also indicated that the Board needs to provide regular briefings of senior management on current and upcoming Board activities.  Also, it is a good idea for the Board to have occasional joint meetings with the Council to enhance communication and provide interaction with Board members.


Outreach Discussion


Outreach group has contacted three “yellow page” folks from the Austin Conference and will re-visit with these people after the Las Vegas meeting.  The web site is loading faster now and comes up more frequently on web searches.


Several ideas were proposed to increase visibility of the Board and its products:


            more participation in and/or presentations to state monitoring councils


            evaluate and distribute information regarding new method technologies and current frontiers regarding methods


            emphasize Board publications, presentations at conferences

            develop and lead workshops, special sessions on timely method issues at national conferences


            invite experts, organizations, to meetings for special presentations/interactions with the Board.


Other specific outreach tasks/activities discussed were:



                                                                                                follow-up on logo letter and determination of status for web page


                                                                                                follow-up on link letter to determine status of web sites to which the Board can link and establish interactions


                                                                                                workgroup outreach liaisons need to coordinate with Charlie as to what information can be archived and what should go on to the web


                                                                                                workgroups need to evaluate what products/activities should be published on the web or publicized otherwise


                                                                                                Rick will update the Board Fact Sheet - recent papers by Charlie and Herb should help expedite this


                                                                                                papers for WQTC and “Monitoring Tailor Made” should go on web (may need permission)


                                                                                                need complete bibliography of Board presentations and papers to Charlie


                                                                                                develop a feature article on the Board for a prominent magazine/journal


                                                                                                develop a different structure for the web site based on the methods framework presented at the Austin National Water Quality Monitoring Conference


                                                                                                Patty Lee of HRSD requested a presentation by the Board at the VA WEF Lab Practices Board meeting in Hampton Roads, VA, April/May 2001


                                                                                                Charlie presenting Board and Council activities to a USGS internal conference on field methods


                                                                                                need to invite Linda Green to the next outreach conference call (11/21/00)


                                                                                                Rick will initiate a list of upcoming conferences to address needs for a booth, flyers, etc.  Also need to print more tear-off flyers for upcoming conference, etc.



Accreditation Workgroup


            Position Paper on Federal Lab Accreditation


The Board revised the paper based on comments by Jackie Sample and others and distributed version 6.0 to the Board.  Comments were received from Florida, several Board members, and others.


The following changes were agreed to at the meeting:



(1)                                                                                          The paper should reflect that this paper is a product of the Board and not only the Accreditation Workgroup of the Board.


(2)                                                                                          Cost considerations of NELAC versus other accreditation authorities needs to be expressed in the paper (section 4) when discussing benefits and limitations of NELAC.


(3)                                                                                          Note that some non-NELAC accredited states do recognize NELAC accredited labs from other states.


(4)                                                                                          NELAC is moving forward on ambient and field methods as well.


A timetable for the paper was decided as follows:


Nov. 10, 2000                                 Tetra Tech will revise paper and distribute version 6.1 to the Board, USEPA, Office of Water, and USGS for general review and comment.  Simultaneously relevant sections of version 6.1 will be sent to appropriate NVLAP, A2LA, and NELAC staff to ensure accuracy of information presented relevant to each accrediting authority.


December 8                                     Tetra Tech receive comments


December 22                                   Tetra Tech revise paper and distribute version 6.2 to Board


January 10, 2001                             Board formally approve paper


January 16, 2001                             Distribute paper to Council for approval


February                                                                               Council vote on approval of paper and recommendations


February                                                                               Send approved version to ELAB and NELAC Board of Directors for approval/support at NELAC meeting in May


April                                                                                      Send to ACWI for evaluation at their May meeting

            White Paper on Value of Accreditation


It was recognized that the position paper may need more of a context so that reviewers understand the importance of the issues and the recommendations raised in the paper .  Therefore, it was decided that a brief (2-3 page) white paper, summarizing the importance of accreditation, needs to be developed and distributed with the final version of the position paper.  Tetra Tech, with Jerry Parr, will prepare a first draft of the white paper by early December for review by the Board, Chuck, John, Elizabeth, and Bob Hirsch.


The Accreditation Workgroup will also prepare formal recommendations to NELAC based on the recommendations in the position paper.  Cliff, Herb, Bart, and Harold will draft the recommendations.


            PT Privatization



            In parking lot for now.  Will revisit status at January meeting.


            Board may be able to develop acceptance criteria for PT samples.





            NELAC Coordination


Given the general recommendation that NELAC is the accreditory authority of choice for federal labs (and maybe all labs), the Board agreed that several actions should be pursued regarding NELAC:



                                                     Board should recommend that federal agencies strive to comply with NELAC standards


                                                     Board should work with EPA management to support EPA taking on federal accreditory authority


                                                     Investigate the pros and cons of EPA directly accrediting federal labs rather than states accrediting federal labs


                                                     Board members need to participate in NELAC committees and regularly attend NELAC meetings (Bart, Harold, Merle Shockey, and Rick are already doing this).


                                                     Get a place on the agenda for the May NELAC meeting in 2001


                                                     Voice Board activities at the upcoming ELAB meeting


                                                     Bring up recommendations at the open forum next Thursday evening at the upcoming NELAC meeting


                                                     Support a “methods” rather than “program”-based accreditation program so as to support eventually a PBMS approach, which NELAC is considering


                                                     Help write standards for those aspects the Board feels NELAC should address.





                                                     Richard and Harold will contact Austin volunteers.


            Field Accreditation



                                                     Harold and Richard will develop a survey for Board on field accreditation issues and report results at January Board meeting.  Need agenda slot for survey report back.


Biological Methods Workgroup


            Issue Paper on Precision of Field Collection Methods


Sam gave a brief overview of the revisions made to the paper.  The present version received peer review by several experts including statisticians.  Paper is intended for publication in J. North American Benthological Society.  Comments are due to Tetra Tech by 11/15/00.  It was agreed that subsampling issues need be addressed in a separate paper.  Sam indicated that a pilot study on this is possible for approximately $25-30K because samples have already been collected and processed that could yield such comparability information.  Samples still need to be taxonomically identified and data analyzed.


Paper will be distributed to appropriate EPA and USGS staff for review as well as Board.  It would be useful to prepare a seminar or briefing to USGS staff in early December.  Tetra Tech will draft a cover letter for reviewers that will be distributed with the paper.  Paper needs to be circulated widely once finalized, with Council/Board logo on it.


            Focus Group Formation


Seven experts have been contacted for the field method focus group.  Positive responses have been received from 3 so far.  Focus group members will be meeting with the Biological group and the Board at the January meeting via funding through Tetra Tech’s WERF grant.  The field focus group will expressly deal with issues relevant to both PBMS and NEMI.


A Toxicity Focus Group is also being formed.  Jerry has talked with Chris Ingersoll and two others who expressed interest.  Tentatively, these people will meet during the SETAC meeting in Nashville in November to discuss scope and next steps.  Members of this group will be finalized by late December.


Jerry has also contacted Susan Jackson (USEPA/HECD) in this regard and is coordinating Board efforts on field methods with her and the 305(b) consistency workgroup.


            WERF Grant to Tetra Tech


Jerry gave a brief overview of the research scope for designing a study validating whole effluent toxicity tests.  A DQO approach will be used and the Board will serve as a peer review panel.  The field Focus Group will help address some of the needs of the grant as well as the Board.




Mike Miller presented revisions to NEMI tables for field macroinvertebrate methods.  Some of the structure is appropriate but much is packed into the method summary field.  Other fields may be needed?  Mike also presented an Abstract of a survey by Carter and Resh regarding macroinvertebrate methods which is useful for NEMI work.  He also has contacted American Fishery Society staff who are interested in assisting in fish methods.  Jerry will work with Mike to get a draft set of tables for Phase 1 of NEMI and evaluate business rules for field methods.


Steve Moulton prepared NEMI tables for population/community lab methods which needs wider peer review.


Biology and the NEMI workgroup finalized the fields for microbiological and immunoassay methods (may apply to other biological methods as well).  Biology will finalize business rules for microbiological and immunoassay methods by mid-November.





                                                     Jerry and Katherine will contact yellow page volunteers


                                                     Briefs on the Performance paper and the Field Focus group will be developed by Tetra Tech and distributed for comment by mid-November.


Nutrient Methods Workgroup


Dale Robertson (USGS-WRD) gave a presentation of nutrient criteria development approaches for the midwest.  The presentation will be put on the web site for Board review.


Tetra Tech has begun reviewing the Methods Appendix in the USEPA Streams and Rivers Nutrient Criteria document and evaluating needs for the Board to consider.  Tetra Tech will also examine draft criteria in light of method performance characteristics already compiled.  Issues that appear to need guidance are: (a) reference sites definition and how evaluated, (b) pre-laboratory methods (preservation, sampling, storage), and (c) comparability of different nutrient methods.


Additional ideas expressed for the Nutrient Workgroup include:


            PBMS Pilot development incorporating field and lab components


            Literature review of existing nutrient comparability information


            Presentation at the St. Louis TMDL meeting March, 2001.


A Methods White Paper, “Guidance document for performance and comparability issues for nutrient field sampling protocols” will be evaluated that discusses issues regarding field method performance and its effect on nutrient measurements (and compliance with nutrient criteria).  This guidance would also address issues that need to be documented in field protocols and QC samples that are needed.  Response variables such as chlorophyll a would also be incorporated.  Charlie, Jerry, Ed, and Larry will draft an outline of paper by November 15.


A Focus Group will be formed to help prepare the above document.  People named (and contact person) include: John Sharp (Ed), Dale Robertson (Charlie), Charlie Patton (Charlie Peters), Jeff Stoner (Charlie), Jeff VanEe (Charlie/Larry), Dale Bucks (Charlie), USDA, Athens, GA.  Charlie, Jerry, and Ed will consider others who should be contacted.


Ed agreed to serve as Co-chair of the group.  Another Co-chair needs to be assigned.  Ed will also draft a letter for consideration by the Council regarding the nutrient criteria approach using reference site percentile data.


PBMS Workgroup




Deborah ________________ (USEPA) reported that the CRADA is ready for final signatures.  Should go out of her office for internal review within next week or two.  Should get back for signatures within 3 weeks.


            COD Pilot


Cliff received data from 5 of the 8 participants.  Expecting remaining 3 data packages within the next week.  Cliff and Rock will be auditing the data in early November and get to Tetra Tech for analysis by Thanksgiving.  Tetra Tech will complete analyses by mid-December and send to Chris Frebis (USEPA) for review of analyses.


There should be a slot on the January meeting agenda to address results with the Board.  The Workgroup meeting in January will be devoted to writing up the results.





                                                     Tetra Tech will coordinate with Rick to get a brief summary of Pilot (not results) to newsletters publicizing pilot


                                                     Prepare a Fact Sheet on Pilot and results


                                                     Make presentations of Pilot at national meetings


                                                     Publish peer-reviewed paper on Pilot in ES&T or comparable journal


                                                     Get briefs on Dog paper distributed for review with Council cover, and then publish in newsletters, journals, etc.


                                                     Identify potential journals for Dog publication by end of November


                                                     Present COD pilot at WERF or AWARF dinner presentation.


            PBMS Implementation

Bart has a real-world case study from California that could serve as a useful bench/paper “pilot” study and white paper on PBMS implementation issues and guidance in at least some areas.  Issues the “Pilot” could address are: (a) regulatory acceptance, (b) auditing needs, and (c) reference material availability.


Bart will draft an initial paper which will be reviewed by Cliff (representing the regulated entity) and Andy (representing the lab doing the analyses).




Need to get EPA quality systems pages to the Board including DQO guidance.  EPA drinking water ICR data set could be a very useful example illustrating the DQO process, formation of MQOs, and documentation that methods meet MQOs.


NEMI Workgroup


Larry reported that Phase 1 is very close to being on schedule.  Dan needs business rules for microbiological and immunoassay methods and revised tables.  Jerry will send to Dan by mid-November.


A preliminary version of the Phase 1 NEMI was presented by Dan and James at the meeting.  Seventy-seven of the 97 methods suggested are presently entered.  The Board is encouraged to review the database on the web at the Boards’ internal web site, click on Las Vegas meeting, and then follow instructions for viewing NEMI.


A template needs to be developed for summarizing methods in NEMI to make descriptions more succinct and to ensure that similar types of information are conveyed (if available).


Bob Berger agreed to review content of NEMI.  Linda Green may be a good reviewer as well.  Herb and Charlie will come up with other names.


Larry will prepare an update to the powerpoint presentation for management review.  He will also draft a memo telling reviewers what the Board wants them to evaluate and comment on.


Water Quality Data Elements Workgroup


There is concern that the WQDE developed by the Board fit with EPA and ECOS efforts.  Need to implement WQDE into STORET to deal with the “garbage in garbage out” albatross of STORET.  Need to encourage all Federal agencies to use the WQDEs.  Lynne Bradley has been talking to ECOS about electronic reporting and other aspects of their program — their effort was about defining rather than identifying data elements.  Board’s definitions need to be in sync with the ECOS definitions.  Next step is to develop a summary describing the Board process to date and what we have left to do.  ECOS will also describe their process to us to determine if we should meld these efforts.  Their next meeting is in January.  Get information to co-chairs prior to that time for consideration at their meeting.


Actions from the discussion were:



                                                     Discuss WQDE next steps at the upcoming Council meeting 11/9/00


                                                     Increase tribal and other federal agency outreach


                                                     Have someone from ECOS/Data Standards talk to the Board at the January meeting


                                                     Develop a package describing Board WQDE process and results and send to the Council


                                                     Have a Board member present at the next ECOS meeting


                                                     Chuck will develop a process and a proposal by December for Workgroup approval


                                                      Chuck will prepare an outline to get Workgroup input quickly.