QAPPs – What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Quality assurance project plans (QAPPs) can be an essential part of project planning for sites that use data for project decisions. While not always required by the project regulatory agency, QAPPs provide consistency for data quality across a project’s lifecycle and better assure data defensibility. QAPPs are increasingly becoming a core document for environmental projects, especially for projects of a litigious or controversial nature, where data quality can be subject to elevated scrutiny.

What is a QAPP?

A QAPP is a written document that outlines the procedures that team members will follow to collect, produce, and manage credible, high-quality data during project work. A QAPP explains how data will be handled throughout its lifecycle from collection to storage to analysis of samples to the assessment of the data. A QAPP covers data of various types and sources, such as data generated from direct measurement activities and information compiled from databases. Ultimately, a QAPP is both a project planning tool and a quality control instrument. A QAPP’s contents typically varies based on project needs, and may provide information regarding any or all of the following elements:

  1. Project Management
  2. Measurement/Data Acquisition
  3. Assessment and Oversight
  4. Data Validation and Usability

3 QAPP considerations

Once you have chosen to develop a QAPP, there are three key project factors to consider as a starting point:   

  1. Which governing regulatory agencies are involved? The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed QAPP preparation guidelines that can help you create a document that meets or exceeds expectations. Depending on what state the project is located in, there may be additional state-level agency requirements. Using the state-specific agency and/or project-specific website will provide necessary guidelines for QAPP preparation (e.g., data quality objectives, screening levels).   
  2. What are your data quality objectives (DQOs)? EPA’s DQO Process is used to create performance or acceptance criteria, which serve as the basis for designing a plan for collecting data of sufficient quality and quantity (i.e., a QAPP) to support the goals of a study. The DQO Process consists of seven iterative steps. The EPA and some state agencies provide guidelines for preparing DQOs.  
  3. Is a Uniform Federal Policy (UFP)-QAPP a good choice for your project? UFP-QAPPs provide templated forms that effectively guide you along the QAPP development process, including preparing an associated Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP). Completing the templates can help provide information sufficient to fulfill EPA QAPP guidelines. UFP-QAPPs are often required for federal projects (e.g., Department of Defense projects); however, they can be used for any project if the fit is right. 

Learn more

QAPPs support a “quality-first” project approach and provide involved parties with increased confidence that sound data are available to make important project and operational decisions. Trihydro routinely develops QAPPs for various types of projects and is available to assist with QAPP preparation.

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Nella Dagnillo headshot
Nella Dagnillo, REM
Project Engineer, Colorado Springs, CO

Nella is an engineer with over 15 years of experience in data quality management and support. She has extensive experience in preparing quality assurance project plans and sampling plans, validating analytical data, and auditing analytical laboratories. Additionally, she has worked as an engineer on project teams providing experience in data quality management as well as engineering support.
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