General Safety and Health Precautions for the Collection of
Water Samples from Rivers, Streams, and Creeks

Any time water samples are collected from rivers, streams, creeks, or other bodies of water, a wide variety of safety and health concerns may be encountered. Proper pre-planning should be an integral part of any projected sampling event. With proper planning and preparation, any recognized hazards should be able to be avoided. Individuals should remain alert to any changes in the surrounding environment throughout the sampling event that may require you to change or modify your sampling strategy.

General Precautions

  1. Familiarize yourself with the sampling locations. Pay close attention to where you actually will be collecting the sample. Check for stability and slope if sampling from the bank. Avoid areas where obvious dumping of garbage or hazardous materials has occurred.

  2. Observe nearby vegetation for the presence of poisonous plants such as poison ivy and poison oak.

  3. Observe the area for any obvious insect, rodent, or animal infestations. Use mosquito repellent if necessary. Pay close attention for ticks that may become imbedded in your skin.

  4. Check the updated weather forecast for your area. Do not attempt to sample when thunderstorms or other severe weather is anticipated. Never enter a stream at high flow.

  5. Work in pairs whenever possible, especially if you will be sampling in remote locations.

  6. Be sure you have some sort of communication available, or nearby, if in remote areas.

  7. Ideally, individuals should have the ability to swim and be familiar with life-saving techniques. Use of flotation devices should be considered if sampling in or near deeper waters.

  8. Any time that waders are worn, be sure they are worn properly and that you understand their limitations, especially what to do should they fill with water. In that event, one technique requires rolling quickly into a fetal position to keep you afloat momentarily from the air pocket inside the waders. You may also wish to practice quickly removing the waders, especially if pulled under water.

  9. It is recommended that some sort of personal protective equipment be available and used during sampling. If feasible, eye protection and gloves should be worn during the actual sample collection.

  10. If any preservatives or reagents are added to the sample collection bottles, you must be familiar with what has been added. You should have copies of the latest Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for those chemicals added. These are available from the Lab or from the chemical manufacturer. These MSDSs will inform you of any hazards and necessary precautionary measures that must be taken when handling these specific chemicals. Wear proper eye protection, if nitric acid (HNO3) or sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is used as a preservative.

  11. Be particularly careful if you notice any unusual characteristics in or around the water body being sampled, including discoloration, foul odors, fish or animal kills. Avoid contact with oily patches, sheens, discoloration, etc. If you should come in contact with any of these by accident, take immediate action to wash your hands and other affected parts of the body. Report your field observations as soon as possible to the 24 hour Ohio EPA spill hotline at 1(800) 282-9378.

  12. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any redness, rash, blisters, or irritation developing, especially after contact with anything unusual during the course of sample collection.

  13. Proper personal hygiene is important. Be sure to wash your hands frequently throughout the period of sampling. Remove any clothing that has been saturated or exposed to chemicals.

  14. Do not eat, drink, or smoke during the actual sample collection. Be sure your hands are washed before partaking in any of these activities.