Statistical Software Enhances Contaminant Sampling Strategy
Detecting contaminants and dangerous materials often hinges on the quality of the samples gathered for analysis.
The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has issued a new version of a software program, Visual Sample Plan (VSP), which enables users to develop optimal strategies for sampling contaminants in soil, sediments, and water, on building surfaces, and can even help determine the most probable locations of unexploded bombs, mortars and grenades on former practice ranges.
Users of VSP include government agencies such as the U.S. departments of Homeland Security, Energy, Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency, and industry.
VSP is planning software that helps decision-makers determine the number and location of samples that need to be taken to ensure confident, statistically-based decisions. The statistical planning software supplements a widely accepted and often prescribed decision model known as Data Quality Objectives.
“VSP really is a user-friendly tool. It essentially buries the nasty statistical rigor that’s necessary for this kind of work beneath a fairly simple, visual user interface designed for non-statisticians,” said Brent Pulsipher, statistical sciences technical group manager at PNNL.
PNNL researchers released the first version of VSP, sponsored primarily by DOE and EPA, in May 2001 in response to clients’ and private industry’s need for statistical algorithms in the event of contamination releases.
Since November 2003, PNNL has been funded by DHS, through the Technical Support Working Group, with technical support from DHS and EPA, to adapt the existing VSP software to help plan actions in case of a chemical, biological or radioactive release in a building. DHS and EPA need to be able to quickly identify and determine the magnitude and extent of contamination and then guide the decontamination efforts. The software identifies locations and number of samples necessary to confidently determine if the building is free of contamination and safe for occupancy.
PNNL is now in the second phase of the project, which includes development of a VSP module for sampling within a building.
To download a free copy of the software, click here.
PNNL also offers training courses for software users, of which there are more than 4,000 nationally and internationally.
PNNL is a DOE Office of Science laboratory that solves complex problems in energy, national security, the environment and life sciences by advancing the understanding of physics, chemistry, biology and computation.
PNNL employs 3,800, has a $600 million annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab’s inception in 1965.