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Soil analysis

Soil Analysis

Other than aqueous samples, soils make up the bulk of the environmental media we receive at the Alpha Analytical laboratory. (Rounding out the list are air, sediment and tissue samples.) Given that soils are so prevalent, Alpha Analytical has gained tremendous experience analyzing them in support of a multitude of environmental applications and analytical parameters. Following is a summary of our capabilities and what we analyze:   


  • Initial Site Characterization
  • Evaluation of Remedial Alternatives
  • Post-Excavation/Confirmation Sampling
  • Evaluation of Disposal Options
  • Ecological/Human Health Risk Assessment

Targeted compounds

  • Volatile and Semivolatile Organics
  • Petroleum Analysis 
  • Trace Metals
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Herbicides
  • Inorganics including Cyanide, Sulfide, Hexavalent Chromium and Ignitability
  • PFAS
  • Dioxin/Furans
  • PCB Congeners

Soil samples are often collected in support of a soil management application. The on-site soils are evaluated and categorized to determine whether or not they can be reused on the site, or if they need to be removed. If removal of the soil is not necessary, but the soil comprises some level of contamination, Alpha Analytical can recommend  available options, as there are often several, depending on the specific contaminants that are present, as well as their level of contamination. Since different soil receiving facilities have different testing requirements, in addition to having to comply with federal and state regulations, the process can be confusing and costly.  Alpha Analytical’s expertise in the latest requirements and a myriad of complicated testing protocols simplifies this process for our clients.  We understand the regulations and technical guidance compliance issues at every level. Not only that, our suites of analyses and soil management packages provide a streamlined, cost-effective  process for ordering soil testing. These packages are offered at a discounted price point in aggregate over what each individual analysis would cost. 

Alpha provides a number of information management tools that help our clients navigate the testing process. The front-end availability of our soil management packages, combined with our data management tools on the back end, can streamline and simplify your soil management applications.

For example, to make evaluating the data more straightforward -- in terms of facility or regulatory acceptance criteria --  Alpha provides comprehensive electronic data management tools via the Alpha Data Exchange (ADEX)/Data Merger, our exclusive online data portal.  The format we use for ADEX, the Criteria Checker, presents the data in Excel tabular format with the analytical parameters, samples and regulatory requirements Once you select the regulatory criteria (up to 10 at a time),  the table displays which analytes, in which samples, have detected results (or a detection limit) greater than the criteria you selected. 

Important note: Since many environmental sampling programs often encompass multiple media, we recommend reviewing each media separately as outlined on each page of our website for a more complete perspective of our capabilities in this area.

Federal Programs

Soil sampling is governed by several  federal and state level regulatory programs. Following is a  brief overview of a few of these major initiatives,  as well as the privatized programs set up by  three states  for the management of their lead-designated hazardous waste sites.

Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA)  & Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The RCRA  and the TSCA are  federal regulations that guide the analytical processes connected with applicable site investigations and remediation programs.  Used by many states as a foundation for their regulatory programs, a document created by the  RCRA, the SW-846,   provides general guidelines that laboratories can follow to generate data.(It is important to note that the  SW-846 is  is not prescriptive, as it was written for guidance only.) Alpha Analytical supports most SW846 methods and is one of  few laboratories with a large enough available sample capacity for Soxhlet Extraction (Method 3540) sample extraction required for PCB analysis under the TSCA in some EPA Regions. 

We support the following SW-846 analytical methods from the RCRA:

  • Volatile Organics by SW-846 8260
  • Semivolatile Organics by SW-846 8270
  • Pesticides by SW-846 8081
  • PCB by SW-846 8082
  • Herbicides by SW-846 8151
  • Metals by SW-846 6010 or 6020
  • Water quality parameters by SW-846 methodology

 The TSCA regulations place considerable focus on PCBs, and, among other things, prescribes sample extraction methods that are acceptable to these programs. 

State Programs 

Given the lack of specific analytical method performance and quality control/quality assurance standards, some states have adopted more stringent performance criteria. The states have incorporated these standards into laboratory analysis components of their privatized clean up programs.

Massachusetts Contingency Plan/Compendium of Analytical Methods

In 1999, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) determined there was too much uncertainty associated with the use of SW-846 methods, as written in support of the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) decision making.  As a result, MassDEP formed a workgroup composed of DEP personnel, environmental consultants and laboratory technicians to review the SW846 procedures and define specific requirements  and performance criteria for individual analytical methods included in theMCP methods manual, “The Compendium of Analytical Methods (CAM).” Alpha Analytical staff participated in the workgroups and was regularly involved with CAM training programs, and later with the associated Representativeness Evaluation and Data Usability Assessment workgroup and training programs. As a result of this involvement, Alpha Analytical has gained considerable experience with the CAM and generating data of known quality using the methods.   

Connecticut DEP Reasonable Confidence Protocols

Similar to what Massachusetts did with the CAM in support of the MCP, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection also  added specificity to the SW-846 guidance document with the Reasonable Confidence Protocols (RCP) to  support  the state’s Remediation Standard Regulations. Alpha Analytical employees were also heavily involved in the RCP workgroup and subsequent training programs, expanding our level of expertise in both states.

New Jersey Data of Known Quality Protocols (DKQP)

Along the same lines and with the same intent as the Massachusetts and Connecticut programs, New Jersey developed the Data of Known Quality Protocols (DKQP). Through the same participatory framework as the other states, Alpha Analytical has gained tremendous experience and knowledge of regulations in New Jersey. 

If your soil analysis project is located in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey, Alpha’s project managers and technical staff are uniquely qualified to help.  

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