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Quality Control: The Great Myth
Thomas L. Francoeur, Atlantic Ecotechnologies/TEG Northwest, 160 Longwoods Road, Cumberland, ME 04021

Paper published in the Proceedings of the Field Analytical Methods for Hazardous Wastes and Toxic Chemicals Specialty Conference (January 29-31, 1997, Las Vegas, sponsored by the Air & Waste Management Association) pp. 651-657

Both data generators and data users are under economic pressure to drive down the cost of their respective services. This pressure forces data generators to take shortcuts, and data users circumvent the Data Quality Objective (DQO) process. This combination of factors is very dangerous and has lead to an untold number of situations where the end user’s absolute confidence in environmental data is unwarranted. Confidence in environmental data is rationalized through laboratory certification and the mere performance of Quality Control Procedures as an assurance of data quality rather than a measure of data quality. Ironically, because these shortcuts can so dramatically impact price, both generators and users are rewarded by receiving additional work. This vicious cycle has lead to a proliferation of “data time bombs” where data go on to be used in reports for what may be an inappropriate use. This paper will discuss the basics of the DQO process and how data should be deemed usable for a given use. This paper will further discuss how the DQO process does not have to be a cumbersome and complex process, but rather an essential component of an environmental investigation, and will illustrate the potential negative result by discussing several examples of "data time bombs."

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