The New Field Preservation Technique for VOCs & Strategic Decisions in Ontario

As we get closer to the July 1, 2011, deadline for changes to O.Reg. 511/09, there has been an increased buzz and concern about the practical implementation of the regulation. We’ve had calls from clients, laboratories, and vendors nearly every week since the beginning of this year with technical questions.  Many stakeholders are wondering what the future is for field preservation of soil samples for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

Briefly, the Ministry of Environment’s (MOE) analytical method protocol, which came out December of 2009, discusses three different technical options for collection, preparation, and preservation of soil samples in the field.

1.    No headspace soil sample in a glass jar with a Teflon®-lined lid (no preservative). Note: must be delivered to the laboratory within 48 hours. This is not a USEPA 5035 (Method 5035).

2.    EnCore sampler (no preservative). Note: must be delivered to the laboratory within 48 hours (consistent with Method 5035).

3.    Field preservation with sodium bisulphate or methanol (consistent with Method 5035). Does not have the same short holding time limitations.

So the question is which technique should you use? That depends on a number of factors that should be discussed as you are developing your work plan.

We have been hearing from several sources that the MOE will be strongly suggesting that Method 5035 techniques be employed; however, we are not sure if the Ministry will issue a guidance document or propose an amendment to O.Reg 511/09.  Regardless of the current discussions related to the use of Method 5035 field preservation methods, there may be a good reason to use this method on current projects.

Data collected by regulators in the United States document that using Method 5035 will yield more representative VOC concentrations in soil samples. It may be prudent to discuss the use of this method with your technical and legal advisors.

So where does this leave us:  Probably with more questions than answers. Will there be additional cleanup obligations by following the Method 5035 techniques?  That is a possibility, because Method 5035 does typically lead to higher VOC results (when VOCs are present).  Will a project site be reopened because historic soil sampling was not conducted using Method 5035?  Seems possible, but certainly something to discuss with legal counsel.

Again, how you approach sampling for VOCs involve some strategic considerations; technical and legal. If you have specific technical questions, contact Clifford Lawton ( or Christopher Paré( at 519-979-7300.


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