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Analysis of Plastic Bag Liner Contamination NYSDEC Acid Deposition Program

Joan Fleser, Allen Adams, Preston Lewis, Garry Boynton, Dr. Kevin Civerolo
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Air Resources, Bureau of Air Quality Surveillance, 3rd Floor
625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-3256


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has operated a statewide acid deposition monitoring program since the mid-1980s. The NYSDEC has provided crucial information on trends in wet deposition in rural, suburban, and urban locations throughout the state. This network complements the efforts of the federally-sponsored nationwide National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) network, which focuses its efforts in largely rural areas. NYSDEC has been involved with the NADP equipment, methods and protocol sub-committees for several years.

Unlike the NADP, wet deposition samples from the NYSDEC sites are collected on a weekly basis in buckets that are lined with polyethylene bags. NYSDEC staff has frequently recommended that NADP use plastic bag liners similar to NYSDEC and Environment Canada. However, NADP has expressed concern for bag contamination, even though routine analysis of potential contamination occurs when a new shipment of 5000 bags is received. Starting in November 2006 a team of involved staff was formed to analyze our bucket liners for contamination. The decision to do the study was not only to provide information for our acid deposition program but to also address some of the NADP concerns about using bucket liners because of potential significant contamination.

The Canadians use bucket liners, daily sampling, controlled shipping temperatures, etc which is quite different then our protocol. The Canadian specifications for purchasing plastic bags were very helpful to our study as we had not specified the parameters for a “clean bag”. They also provided us some of their bags so we could cross check our lab results.

NADP provided us their control limits for clean buckets which they use in their collectors. This was also helpful in comparing definitions for clean bag parameters. After the NADP site operator places the sample into a lab bottle, the buckets are shipped back to Champaign, IL to be washed, sealed in a plastic bag and shipped back to the sites. The packing materials (cartons, etc.) and the shipping cost account for a considerable part of their program cost. It was because of this considerable cost that NYSDEC originally decided to use bags instead of buckets.

The team decided that we would keep our report brief and attached is a first draft gleaned mostly from the team’s suggestions. Here we present results from an extensive study of potential contamination that may arise from the use of these polyethylene bags.