Tier 3 groups must demonstrate that they meet the sampling and analytical requirements of the CBP Methods and Quality Assurance procedures, which must be documented in a separate Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) and undergo a field audit conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Data Integrity Workgroup (DIWG).
In order for a monitoring group to start the Tier 3 Evaluation Process, they must have an established and sustainable monitoring program collecting Tier 2 data and demonstrate the technical expertise on staff to manage and sustain a Tier 3 program with limited support. Tidal monitoring groups can request to be included on the list of groups recommended to the CBP Data Integrity Workgroup (DIWG) for Tier 3 monitoring or can be nominated by the CMC Service Providers. The CBP DIWG will confirm and prioritize candidates (if needed) during their quarterly meetings, and selects an audit team.
Once a group is identified as a potential Tier 3 group, UMCES will work with each monitoring group to walk through the audit process.
Tier 3 Evaluation Process
- The Tier 3 Candidate will write or update a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), with support from UMCES where needed.
- UMCES submits the QAPP and CBP QA Checklist to EPA Region 3 and the CBP QA Coordinator for review.
- UMCES notifies the DIWG of the potential candidate and selects an audit team.
- The Candidate will review and respond to QAPP comments from EPA Region 3 and submit a second draft of the QAPP to EPA Region 3 and the CBP QA Coordinator.
- UMCES schedules a field audit with the selected audit team, UMCES, and the monitoring group. The field audit team will review program documentation, observe calibration procedures, attend a field day to observe field procedures for each station, and review post-sampling procedures. Any discrepancies with CBP protocols will be noted on the Audit Form.
- The audit team will send a final report with all notes and recommendations to the Tier 3 candidate and the CBP QA Coordinator.
- The Candidate and UMCES work to resolved deficiencies, update QAPPs/SOPs as needed and obtain final signatures and EPA Region 3 approval.
A group’s data is considered Tier 3 after the entire process is complete and the Quality Assurance Officer at the Bay Program has signed the approved QAPP. Ideally, the QAPP approvals occur over the winter in order to conduct a field audit in the spring and finalize the paperwork to start the summer field sampling season as Tier 3. If the process finishes in the middle of the season, only data collected after the process is completed will be considered Tier 3, all other data will be considered Tier 2.
Yearly Review and Updates
UMCES will contact all approved Tier 3 groups annually (typically in the winter) and check for any QAPP revisions to the sampling methods, equipment, sites, labs, staff, etc. for the next monitoring year.
- If there are no changes – the approved QAPP is maintained and used for the next year.
- If there are minor changes (adding or removing monitoring stations, equipment changes with similar or equivalent equipment, lab changes with equivalent methods) – the approved QAPP is updated using track changes and update the Revisions History Page, and submitted to the CBP QA Coordinator for review and approval.
- If there are major changes (updating the program structure, changes monitoring protocols, major staff turnover, etc) – the program QAPP is updated and submitted to the CBPA QA Coordinator as a new QAPP and the Tier 3 Approval Process is completed again, including a field audit.