SOUTH PORTLAND–It may not be fascinating reading for anyone but a quality control wonk, but last week, Friends of Casco Bay received word that its Quality Assurance Project Plan—QAPP for short—was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that all the data collected by staff scientists and nearly 100 volunteer water quality monitors can be used with confidence by regulators at EPA and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, as well as by scientists at universities and oceanographic institutions. This comprehensive data on water temperature, clarity, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, and salinity can be used to make policy decisions, increase protection of state and federal coastal waters, and further scientific research.
“It’s a big deal,” says Friends of Casco Bay’s Citizen Stewards Coordinator, Peter Milholland. “This EPA ‘seal of approval’ recognizes that our volunteer citizen scientists collect reliable data. They do the work that state or federal agencies would have to pay for by adding personnel or by hiring outside contractors. Because of this EPA certification, the data that staff and volunteers collect can be used to upgrade state-designated water quality classifications, identify the most environmentally challenged areas of the Bay, and help reopen clam flats to harvesting.
Friends of Casco Bay received EPA approval for its first Quality Assurance Project Plan in 1992, and every five years, it must submit a revision that documents its water quality sampling process, training and recertification procedures, and archiving of the information in a database. Peter has shared the document with more than a dozen other environmental monitoring groups to use as a model for writing their own QAPP.
After reviewing Friends of Casco Bay’s 70-page document, Art Clark, Quality Assurance Officer at EPA Region I, summed up his recommendations with a simple, “Keep up the good work!”