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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 1. Administration
Agency 30. Department of General Services
Chapter 45. Certification for Noncommercial Environmental Laboratories
12/10/2019

1VAC30-45-770. Chemical Testing: Positive and Negative Controls.

A. Negative control – method performance.

1. Purpose. The method blank is used to assess the preparation batch for possible contamination during the preparation and processing steps. The method blank shall be processed along with and under the same conditions as the associated samples to include all steps of the analytical procedure. Procedures shall be in place to determine if a method blank is contaminated. Any affected samples associated with a contaminated method blank shall be reprocessed for analysis or the results reported with appropriate data qualifying codes.

2. Frequency. The method blank shall be analyzed at a minimum of one per preparation batch. In those instances for which no separate preparation method is used (e.g., volatiles in water) the batch shall be defined as environmental samples that are analyzed together with the same method and personnel, using the same lots of reagents, not to exceed the analysis of 20 environmental samples.

3. Composition. The method blank shall consist of a quality system matrix that is similar to the associated samples and is known to be free of the analytes of interest.

4. Evaluation criteria and corrective action. While the goal is to have no detectable contaminants, each method blank shall be critically evaluated as to the nature of the interference and the effect on the analysis of each sample within the batch. The source of contamination shall be investigated and measures taken to minimize or eliminate the problem and affected samples reprocessed or data shall be appropriately qualified if:

a. The concentration of a targeted analyte in the blank is at or above the reporting limit as established by the test method or by regulation, and is greater than 1/10 of the amount measured in any sample.

b. The blank contamination otherwise affects the sample results as per the test method requirements or the individual project data quality objectives.

c. When a blank is determined to be contaminated, the cause shall be investigated and measures taken to minimize or eliminate the problem. Samples associated with a contaminated blank shall be evaluated as to the best corrective action for the samples (e.g., reprocessing or data qualifying codes). In all cases the corrective action shall be documented.

B. Positive control – method performance. Laboratory control sample (LCS).

1. Purpose. The LCS is used to evaluate the performance of the total analytical system, including all preparation and analysis steps. Results of the LCS are compared to established criteria and, if found to be outside of these criteria, indicates that the analytical system is "out of control." Any affected samples associated with an out of control LCS shall be reprocessed for re-analysis or the results reported with appropriate data qualifying codes.

2. Frequency. The LCS shall be analyzed at a minimum of one per preparation batch. Exceptions would be for those analytes for which no spiking solutions are available such as total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, total volatile solids, total solids, pH, color, odor, temperature, dissolved oxygen or turbidity. In those instances for which no separate preparation method is used (example: volatiles in water) the batch shall be defined as environmental samples that are analyzed together with the same method and personnel, using the same lots of reagents, not to exceed the analysis of 20 environmental samples.

3. Composition. The LCS is a quality system matrix, known to be free of analytes of interest, spiked with known and verified concentrations of analytes. NOTE: the matrix spike may be used in place of this control as long as the acceptance criteria are as stringent as for the LCS. Alternatively the LCS may consist of a media containing known and verified concentrations of analytes or as Certified Reference Material (CRM). All analyte concentrations shall be within the calibration range of the methods. The following shall be used in choosing components for the spike mixtures:

The components to be spiked shall be as specified by the mandated test method or other regulatory requirement or as requested by the client. In the absence of specified spiking components the laboratory shall spike per the following:

a. For those components that interfere with an accurate assessment such as spiking simultaneously with technical chlordane, toxaphene and PCBs, the spike should be chosen that represents the chemistries and elution patterns of the components to be reported.

b. For those test methods that have extremely long lists of analytes, a representative number may be chosen. The analytes selected should be representative of all analytes reported. The following criteria shall be used for determining the minimum number of analytes to be spiked. However, the laboratory shall insure that all targeted components are included in the spike mixture over a two-year period. For methods that include 1-10 targets, spike all components; for methods that include 11-20 targets, spike at least 10 components or 80%, whichever is greater; and for methods with more than 20 targets, spike at least 16 components.

4. Evaluation criteria and corrective action.

a. The results of the individual batch LCS are calculated in percent recovery or other appropriate statistical technique that allows comparison to established acceptance criteria. The laboratory shall document the calculation.

b. The individual LCS is compared to the acceptance criteria as published in the mandated test method. Where there are no established criteria, the laboratory shall determine internal criteria and document the method used to establish the limits or utilize client specified assessment criteria.

c. A LCS that is determined to be within the criteria effectively establishes that the analytical system is in control and validates system performance for the samples in the associated batch. Samples analyzed along with a LCS determined to be "out of control" shall be considered suspect and the samples reprocessed and re-analyzed or the data reported with appropriate data qualifying codes.

5. If a large number of analytes are in the LCS, it becomes statistically likely that a few will be outside control limits. This may not indicate that the system is out of control, therefore corrective action may not be necessary. Upper and lower marginal exceedance (ME) limits can be established to determine when corrective action is necessary. A ME is defined as being beyond the LCS control limit (3 standard deviations), but within the ME limits. ME limits are between 3 and 4 standard deviations around the mean.

a. The number of allowable marginal exceedances is based on the number of analytes in the LCS. If more analytes exceed the LCS control limits than is allowed, or if any one analyte exceeds the ME limits, the LCS fails and corrective action is necessary. This marginal exceedance approach is relevant for methods with long lists of analytes. It will not apply to target analyte lists with fewer than 11 analytes.

b. The number of allowable marginal exceedances is as follows:

Number of analytes in LCS

Number of analytes allowed in ME of the LCS control limit

Greater than 90

Five

71‑90

Four

51‑70

Three

31‑50

Two

11‑30

One

Fewer than 11

None

c. Marginal exceedances shall be random. If the same analyte exceeds the LCS control limit repeatedly, it is an indication of a systemic problem. The source of the error shall be located and corrective action taken. Laboratories shall have a written procedure to monitor the application of marginal exceedance allowance to the LCS to ensure random behavior.

C. Sample specific controls - general.

1. The laboratory shall document procedures for determining the effect of the sample matrix on method performance. These procedures relate to the analyses of quality system matrix specific Quality Control (QC) samples and are designed as data quality indicators for a specific sample using the designated test method. These controls alone are not used to judge laboratory performance.

2. Examples of matrix specific QC include: Matrix Spike (MS); Matrix Spike Duplicate (MSD); sample duplicates; and surrogate spikes. The laboratory shall have procedures in place for tracking, managing, and handling matrix specific QC criteria including spiking appropriate components at appropriate concentrations, calculating recoveries and relative percent difference, evaluating and reporting results based on performance of the QC samples.

D. Sample specific controls - matrix spike and matrix spike duplicates.

1. Purpose. Matrix specific QC samples indicate the effect of the sample matrix on the precision and accuracy of the results generated using the selected method. The information from these controls is sample/matrix specific and would not normally be used to determine the validity of the entire batch.

2. Frequency. The frequency of the analysis of matrix specific samples shall be determined as part of a systematic planning process (e.g., Data Quality Objectives) or as specified by the test method.

3. Composition. The components to be spiked shall be as specified by the mandated test method. Any permit specified analytes, as specified by regulation or client requested analytes shall also be included. If there are no specified components, the laboratory shall spike per the following:

a. For those components that interfere with an accurate assessment such as spiking simultaneously with technical chlordane, toxaphene and PCBs, the spike should be chosen that represents the chemistries and elution patterns of the components to be reported.

b. For those test methods that have extremely long lists of analytes, a representative number may be chosen using the following criteria for choosing the number of analytes to be spiked. However, the laboratory shall insure that all targeted components are included in the spike mixture over a two-year period.

(1) For methods that include 1-10 targets, spike all components;

(2) For methods that include 11-20 targets, spike at least 10 components or 80%, whichever is greater;

(3) For methods with more than 20 targets, spike at least 16 components.

4. Evaluation criteria and corrective action.

a. The results from matrix spike/matrix spike duplicate are primarily designed to assess the precision and accuracy of analytical results in a given matrix and are expressed as percent recovery (%R), relative percent difference (RPD), or other appropriate statistical technique that allows comparison to established acceptance criteria. The laboratory shall document the calculation for %R, RPD or other statistical treatment used.

b. The results are compared to the acceptance criteria as published in the mandated test method. Where there are no established criteria, the laboratory shall determine internal criteria and document the method used to establish the limits. For matrix spike results outside established criteria corrective action shall be documented or the data reported with appropriate data qualifying codes.

E. Sample specific controls - matrix duplicates.

1. Purpose. Matrix duplicates are defined as replicate aliquots of the same sample taken through the entire analytical procedure. The results from this analysis indicate the precision of the results for the specific sample using the selected method. The matrix duplicate provides a usable measure of precision only when target analytes are found in the sample chosen for duplication.

2. Frequency. The frequency of the analysis of matrix duplicates may be determined as part of a systematic planning process (e.g., Data Quality Objectives) or as specified by the mandated test method.

3. Composition. Matrix duplicates are performed on replicate aliquots of actual samples. The composition is usually not known.

4. Evaluation criteria and corrective action.

a. The results from matrix duplicates are primarily designed to assess the precision of analytical results in a given matrix and are expressed as relative percent difference (RPD) or another statistical treatment (e.g., absolute differences). The laboratory shall document the calculation for relative percent difference or other statistical treatments.

b. Results are compared to the acceptance criteria as published in the mandated test method. Where there are no established criteria, the laboratory shall determine internal criteria and document the method used to establish the limits. For matrix duplicates results outside established criteria corrective action shall be documented or the data reported with appropriate data qualifying codes.

F. Sample specific controls - surrogate spikes.

1. Purpose. Surrogates are used most often in organic chromatography test methods and are chosen to reflect the chemistries of the targeted components of the method. Added prior to sample preparation/extraction, they provide a measure of recovery for every sample matrix.

2. Frequency. Except where the matrix precludes its use or when not commercially available, surrogate compounds shall be added to all samples, standards, and blanks for all appropriate test methods.

3. Composition. Surrogate compounds are chosen to represent the various chemistries of the target analytes in the method or measurement quality objectives. They are often specified by the mandated method and are deliberately chosen for their being unlikely to occur as an environmental contaminant. Often this is accomplished by using deuterated analogs of select compounds.

4. Evaluation criteria and corrective action. The results are compared to the acceptance criteria as published in the mandated test method. Where there are no established criteria, the laboratory should determine internal criteria and document the method used to establish the limits. Surrogates outside the acceptance criteria shall be evaluated for the effect indicated for the individual sample results. Data quality objectives or other site-specific requirements may guide the appropriate corrective action. Results reported from analyses with surrogate recoveries outside the acceptance criteria should include appropriate data qualifiers.

Statutory Authority

§ 2.2-1105 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Volume 25, Issue 07, eff. January 1, 2009; amended, Virginia Register Volume 32, Issue 22, eff. September 1, 2016.

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