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2.4.2 Historical site assessment data quality objectives

The data quality objectives (DQO) process assists in directing the planning of data collection activities performed during the historical site assessment. Information gathered during the historical site assessment supports other data quality objectives when this process is applied to subsequent surveys.

Three historical site assessment data quality objectives are expected:

  • Identifying an individual or a list of planning team members – including the decision maker;
  • Concisely describing the problem;
  • Initially classifying site and survey unit as impacted or non-impacted.
    Other results may accompany these three, and this added information may be useful in supporting subsequent applications of the data quality objective process.

The planning team clarifies and defines the data quality objectives for a site-specific survey. This multidisciplinary team of technical experts offers the greatest potential for solving problems when identifying every important aspect of a survey. Including a stakeholder group representative is an important consideration when assembling this team. Once formed, the team can also consider the role of public participation for this assessment and the possible surveys to follow. The number of team members is directly related to the scope and complexity of the problem. For a small site or simplified situations, planning may be performed by the site owner. For other specific sites a regulatory agency representative may be included.

The representative’s role facilitates survey planning – without direct participation in survey plan development – by offering comments and information based on past precedent, current guidance, and potential pitfalls. For a large, complex facility, the team may include technical project managers, site managers, scientists, engineers, community and local government representatives, health physicists, statisticians, and regulatory agency representatives. A reasonable effort should be made to include other individuals – that is, specific decision makers or data users – who may use the study findings sometime in the future.

It is advised that the leader of the planning team is a member of the team who is referred to as the decision maker. This individual is often the person with the most authority over the study and may be responsible for assigning the roles and responsibilities to planning team members. Overall, the decision-making process arrives at final decisions based on the planning team’s recommendations.

The following steps may be helpful during the development of data quality objectives:

  • Describe the conditions or circumstances regarding the problem or situation and the reason for undertaking the survey;
  • Describe the problem or situation as it is currently understood by briefly summarizing existing information;
  • Conduct literature searches and interviews, and examine past or ongoing studies to ensure that the problem is correctly defined;
  • If the problem is complex, consider breaking it into more manageable pieces.

The initial classification of the site involves developing a conceptual model based on the existing information, collected during a preliminary investigation. Conceptual models describe a site or facility and its environs and present hypotheses regarding the radio-nuclides for known and potential residual contamination. The classification of the site is discussed in Section 2.4.8, Evaluation of historical site assessment data.

Several results of the data quality objective process may be addressed initially during the historical site assessment. This information or decision may be based on limited or incomplete data. As the site assessment progresses and as decisions become more difficult, the iterative nature of the data quality objective process allows for re-evaluation of preliminary decisions. This is especially important for classification of sites and survey units where the final classification is not made until the final status survey is planned.