There?s nothing quite like working on a stormwater sampling project. It?s sort of like being a doctor on call minus the handsome pay, life threatening circumstances, fancy white coat, pager, extra letters behind your name, respect…

You have to stalk the weather and be ready to go at a moment?s notice. Yes, you may be in the middle of carving the Thanksgiving turkey when it starts to rain. Maybe you are about to say, ?I do.? Perhaps it?s right as you are about to hear those three words you?ve been waiting for for 9 long months, ?It?s a…..? when you are forced to run for the outfalls and deal with biological hazards like crossing (darting, arms flailing) through pasture where bulls graze. One can only hope for a very understanding partner.

Then there?s the whole issue of short hold times for specific samples. If samples don?t get to the lab in time and are subsequently out of hold, you are up a creek without a paddle (I know, lame joke). You might be in Where The Heck Am I, Nebraska, and have to drive over an hour to find a FedEx so your samples with 48-hour hold times arrive to the laboratory by the following morning. You might have to sample for chloroform, which means ?Drive by Drop Off? when you are approaching the 6-hour mark. You may not even be able to work on Saturdays and Sundays due to hold time constraints and where your field is in relation to the laboratory, which means you might actually have to find something to do in Where The Heck Am I, Nebraska, or watch Dog the Bounty Hunter marathons on A&E from your motel room.

Yes, hold times can make a job pretty frustrating, but being prepared and understanding the restrictions can help — or at least take away the element of surprise. There are a bunch of labs out there that try to make this information readily available to clients on their websites. Here are a few:

ALS Environmental
Torrent Lab
Spectrum Analytical

Do you have any funny stories about your experience with storm water sampling or short hold times? Any times when you were forced to leave your own birthday party? Any moments of desperation, where you arrived to the shipping location only moments before close? Share your story — we?d love to hear it!

Written by: Karen Baer

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