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Guide External Data Submittals to the Watershed Planning Program

MassDEP welcomes help from outside groups to gather data on surface water quality. Here are guidelines for submitting data to MassDEP.

Table of Contents

Introduction

The following guidance is for the submittal of surface water quality data by external data providers to MassDEP's Watershed Planning Program (WPP). Data that is submitted and provided to WPP may be used to make decisions regarding surface water quality assessments as required by Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Detailed information on data submittal can be found in the Data Submittal Guidelines for External Data, linked below. Submittal of Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPS) for MassDEP review is a separate process and is explained  in the QAPP Submittal and Approval Process document below.

Additional Resources for Introduction

External Data Review Process

WPP categorizes external data into 3 general levels, which are related to the monitoring objectives (i.e., why the data were collected):

  1. Educational/Stewardship-level
  2. Screening level, and
  3. Regulatory/Assessment level.

While extremely important, data collected primarily for educational and/or stewardship purposes (level 1) generally does not meet the rigor (i.e., accuracy, precision, frequency, comparability, overall confidence, etc.) required for use in making water quality assessment decisions or in developing TMDLs. Although this type of data can be submitted, it is unlikely the data will be used for 305(b) or 303(d)-related decision making.

Screening-level data (level 2) are also very important and welcome, but generally fail to meet one or more WPP criteria required for direct use in water quality assessments or TMDLs. For example, Level 2 data may meet the data quality objectives in the submitter's Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), but not those in the WPP's monitoring program QAPP approved by USEPA. Level 2 data may be used to direct future WPP sampling efforts and as supporting evidence.

Level 3 assessment-level data have been determined by MassDEP, based on the WPP's external data review procedures, to be directly usable for 305(b) and 303(d) decision-making. These data are considered scientifically sound and legally defensible, and are typically the result of extensive planning, attention to detail, relatively stringent data quality objectives, training, standard field and lab procedures, metadata collection, project organization, and data verification. Contingent upon WPP staff review and approval, quality-controlled data can help determine if a waterbody is meeting water quality standards or is impaired.

All external data submitted electronically are reviewed using a defined and consistent procedure. Use of WPP's data submittal template is the preferred format for external data submittals. Once data are received by WPP, a standard data review spreadsheet is used to facilitate and document the review. NOTE: QAPP approval, submittal of the data integrity statement and/or submittal of monitoring data does not guarantee that the data will be used by the WPP in its CWA 305(b) use assessment decisions.

When to Submit Data

  • The data submittal deadline for the 2022 IR is January 15, 2021. Quality-controlled external data submitted prior to this deadline may be utilized, depending on the focus of the 2022 IR.
  • The data submittal deadline for the 2024 IR is TBD.

MassDEP is required to submit Integrated Reports to EPA every two years, in the Spring of even-numbered years.

For MassDEP’s CWA 305(b) and 303(d) assessment and reporting purposes, submittals of surface water quality data/information are welcome at any time, with the following caveats regarding use by MassDEP in decision-making. Quality-controlled data submitted prior to the date(s) shown above may be considered in the development of the Integrated Report, dependent on the planned cycle-specific assessment workload. Data submitted after the listed deadline(s), including during the public comment period, will not be considered for the current assessment cycle, but may be reviewed and considered in a subsequent cycle, dependent on the workloads planned for future assessment cycles.

What Information to Include in the Data Submittal

  • Cover letter / email.
  • Data Files. Quality-assured monitoring data can be electronically submitted in either of two ways (or both):
    • Using DWM-WPP's data-submittal template:
      Data files may be submitted using DWP-WPP's data-submittal Excel template, available via WPP's external-data web page (link below). Data sent using other formats may not be reviewed for usability by DWM-WPP. Data file(s) must include quality-control data.
    • Using EPA's WQX online database.
      If submitting data via WQX please use the email address below to notify DWM-WPP when data has been submitted. Please include with the notification email: a brief list of the data submitted, a copy of the approved QAPP (or cite title and approval date), all quality-control data that was not included in the WQX submission (e.g., field duplicates, blanks, instrument calibration check results).
  • Statement of Data Integrity (see link below).
  • Electronic copy of approved QAPP. If the QAPP WAS APPROVED BY DWM-WPP, it is sufficient to cite the QAPP title and approval date in the cover letter/notification email.
  • In addition to the final data submittal, a summary report (optional) may also be provided.  Suggested content for data reports can be found in the Recommended Content of Data Report Submittals for CWA Reporting Purposes document (see link below).

Additional Resources for What Information to Include in the Data Submittal

Where to Send the Data

Electronic data files and related information can be sent to the DWM-WPP email: WQData.Submit@mass.gov. For regular mail delivery (e.g., CD), data can be sent to the following address:  

External Data Coordinator
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Water Resources, Division of Watershed Management, Watershed Planning Program
8 New Bond St., Worcester, MA 01606

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