Acceptance and Use of Passive Sampler Data in Regulatory Environments

Oral Presentation

Prepared by D. Thal, J. Gruzalski
Environmental Standards, Inc., 8331 East Walker Springs Lane, Suite 402, Knoxville, TN, 37923, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 865-376-7590


For at least 3 decades stakeholders and investigators have foreseen the promise and validity of passive sampling techniques in the assessment of dissolved contaminants in benthic and epibenthic-pelagic habitats. However many site managers have been reasonably reluctant to perform the data collection due to concerns that the data may not be acceptable to regulators. There has also been general reluctance on the part of site managers to collect such data due to a lack of well-defined regulatory requirements or paths, such as published or promulgated method and benchmarks.

A well-established body of research now appears in peer-reviewed scientific publications that has provided scientifically-minded members of regulatory community the technical basis upon which to use data obtained from passive sampling as a line of evidence to inform regulatory decisions. While acceptance has been appropriately careful and slow, momentum has built with the publication of guidance from the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) and the US EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER).

Importantly, data from the use of passive sampling techniques, have been applied in several well-documented cases in which US EPA and/or other regulatory investigators assisted with or led the design, oversight, evaluation and application of the data, in ways that informed the regulatory process. The data from passive sampling studies have been used in conjunction with studies of caged organisms and tissue studies on organisms with high site fidelity to ground-truth modeled assumptions regarding dissolved phase concentrations. This presentation will give an overview of cases in which passive sampling has been used in a regulatory context, and signals the transition in how it should be characterized. Within certain demonstrated parameters the approach should no longer be referred to as “novel” or “research project” status and should be considered tools now more commonly used in regulatory settings.