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Notice of Data Quality Issue for the Inorganic Section of the Energy Geochemistry Laboratory, and Closure of the Inorganic Section (5/25/2016):


In October 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Energy Resources Program was informed of a serious data quality issue within the Inorganic Section of the Energy Geochemistry Laboratory (EGL), located in the USGS Central Energy Resources Science Center (CERSC) in Lakewood, Colorado. This data quality issue pertains to analyses performed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). In the Inorganic Section, ICP-MS analyses are used to measure the concentrations (amounts) of trace elements and rare earth elements in water samples and in extracts prepared from solid samples, such as coal and rock. This data quality issue is the second major data quality issue within the Inorganic Section of the EGL. The previous issue adversely affected data quality and scientific research over the time frame 1996-2008. Notices regarding the previous data quality issue can be found on the USGS Energy Resources Program web site and on the ScienceDirect web site.

After the October 2014 data quality issue was reported, a series of reviews were undertaken, initiated both within and outside the USGS. These reviews were necessary to fully understand the extent of data quality loss that occurred within this section of the EGL. From these reviews, the USGS has learned that this most recent data quality issue potentially affected ICP-MS analyses from 2008-2014. A listing of potentially affected analytical jobs can be found on the USGS Energy Resources Program web site: 

  • Tabular .xlsx
  • Document .pdf (62KB)

During this time frame, some data were manipulated both to correct for calibration failures and to improve results of standard reference materials and unknowns. Some of the original files (“raw data”) from the ICP-MS instrument are unavailable, thus the measured concentrations cannot be re-checked for accuracy. As a result, the trace element and rare earth element concentrations reported from these ICP-MS analyses are considered suspect and are to be used with caution. Further, any publications based on these data should be re-evaluated, and revised as needed.

USGS Response:

The USGS is taking significant measures to remedy this situation:

  • The combined effects of these two data quality issues (1996-2008 and 2008-2014) have adversely affected USGS scientists and research, as well as a number of external customers. As a result, effective March 1, 2016, the Inorganic Section of the EGL was closed, and will no longer be accepting samples nor performing analyses.
  • The USGS has notified individuals, both within and outside USGS, who submitted samples during the 2008-2014 timeframe to this laboratory facility for ICP-MS analyses. The USGS is continuing to assess the full impacts of this latest data quality issue on research and publications.
  • To enhance data quality and accountability of laboratory operations, the USGS Energy Resources Program will complete the development of a Quality Management System (QMS), and establish a separate, permanent Quality Assurance manager position to oversee QMS implementation and quality assurance practices.
  • The USGS Energy Resources Program will periodically update this web site as more information is learned about the potential impacts stemming from this latest data quality incident.

For more information:

For any questions regarding this data quality issue, including potentially affected analyses and science publications and information products, please contact the USGS Energy Resources Program at:


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