Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 213–246 | Cite as

Soil sampling and analysis for volatile organic compounds

  • T. E. Lewis
  • A. B. Crockett
  • R. L. Siegrist


Concerns over data quality have raised many questions related to sampling soils for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This paper was prepared in response to some of these questions and concerns expressed by Remedial Project Managers (RPMs) and On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs). The following questions are frequently asked:
  1. 1.

    Is there a specific device suggested for sampling soils for VOCs?

  2. 2.

    Are there significant losses of VOCs when transferring a soil sample from a sampling device (e.g., split spoon) into the sample container?

  3. 3.

    What is the best method for getting the sample from the split spoon (or other device) into the sample container?

  4. 4.

    Are there smaller devices such as subcore samplers available for collecting aliquots from the larger core and efficiently transferring the sample into the sample container?

  5. 5.

    Are certain containers better than others for shipping and storing soil samples for VOC analysis?

  6. 6.

    Are there any reliable preservation procedures for reducing VOC losses from soil samples and for extending holding times?


Guidance is provided for selecting the most effective sampling device for collecting samples from soil matrices. The techniques for sample collection, sample handling, containerizing, shipment, and storage described in this paper reduce VOC losses and generally provide more representative samples for volatile organic analyses (VOA) than techniques in current use. For a discussion on the proper use of sampling equipment the reader should refer to other sources (Acker, 1974; U.S. EPA, 1983; U.S. EPA, 1986a).

Soil, as referred to in this report, encompasses the mass (surface and subsurface) of unconsolidated mantle of weathered rock and loose material lying above solid rock. Further, a distinction must be made as to what fraction of the unconsolidated material is soil and what fraction is not. The soil component here is defined as all mineral and naturally occurring organic material that is 2 mm or less in size. This is the size normally used to differentiate between soils (consisting of sands, silts, and clays) and gravels.

Although numerous sampling situations may be encountered, this paper focuses on three broad categories of sites that might be sampled for VOCs:
  1. 1.

    Open test pit or trench.

  2. 2.

    Surface soils (<5 ft in depth).

  3. 3.

    Subsurface soils (>5 ft in depth).



Trench VOCs Sampling Device Subsurface Soil Weathered Rock 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. E. Lewis
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. B. Crockett
    • 3
  • R. L. Siegrist
    • 4
  1. 1.Forestry Sciences LaboratoryU.S. Bureau of Land ManagementResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.Lockheed Environmental Systems and Technologies Co.Las VegasUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Science and Technology GroupIdaho National Engineering LaboratoryIdaho FallsUSA
  4. 4.Oak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

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