Assessment of the efficacy of six field cleaning protocols for hydrocarbon quantification


The defensibility of field sampling data collected in support of natural resource damage assessments and other environmental investigations depends on rigorous quality assurance and control both in the field and laboratory. One important step in field procedures is the cleaning of sampling equipment between samples to minimize the carryover of contaminants. Large-scale sampling efforts during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill event have highlighted the importance of understanding how multiple equipment cleaning protocols affect interstation cross-contamination and the resulting chemical data quality. In this study, six field cleaning techniques were tested on metal sampling equipment using two different sediment types spiked with crude oil in order to understand their relative and absolute effectiveness in reducing chemical carryover. The complexity of the cleaning protocols ranged from a simple water and scrub brush application to protocols that included soap and/or solvent. In this study, percent residual hydrocarbon transfer, relative to total loading in sediments, never exceeded 0.032%. The least labor-intensive protocol, water and scrub brush application, had the highest potential for hydrocarbon transfer (0.011–0.032%). Statistical differences were observed among treatments, and it was found that protocols containing a solvent step were more effective than protocols without solvents. Depending on the data quality objectives, the differences may not be meaningful, and choosing a cleaning technique should be governed by health, safety, and environmental factors. The residual hydrocarbons measured after equipment cleanings for all techniques in this study were negligible when compared with other variables that occur during routine sampling and laboratory activities.

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The authors would like to thank Andrew K. Leight, Sarah E. Allen, and Troy Baker for their helpful reviews. We also would like to thank Michael H. Fulton for his assistance in this project.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Emily C. Pisarski, Edward F. Wirth, Ian Hartwell, Brian S. Shaddrix, and Paul L. Pennington. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Emily C. Pisarski, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Emily C. Pisarski.

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Pisarski, E.C., Wirth, E.F., Pennington, P.L. et al. Assessment of the efficacy of six field cleaning protocols for hydrocarbon quantification. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021).

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  • Decontamination
  • Field sampling
  • Sediment
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Oil spill