The Vancouver Landfill's water quality monitoring program consists of sampling 36 surface and groundwater sampling locations from 3 to 12 times per year. Each sample is analyzed for up to 30 analytical parameters. Sample data are compared to several standards as well as to background values. Sampling alone takes up to 30 person days per year, and analytical costs exceed $50,000 per year. To allow convenient interpretation of water quality data it is important to have a user friendly, reliable and flexible environmental database program.
Prior to 1995, the City of Vancouver stored water quality monitoring data on a mainframe based computer system. Data was manually entered into a data file and then uploaded into the computer system. Reporting programs for the system were written in Fortran. Therefore, for any analysis other than standard tri-annual reports, assistance from computer services staff was required. Data entry and checking took up to two days per reporting session. In 1996, the system was improved to allow electronic downloading of the analytical data from the analytical laboratory, eliminating manual data entry. Nonetheless, a better system was required to allow easier data analysis.
In 1996, the City of Vancouver issued a request for proposals to develop a personal computer based database for storing water quality and other environmental monitoring data. The information that the City of Vancouver required included:
- Water quality parameters from groundwater wells, surface water sampling locations and leachate sampling locations
- Flow and water level data from leachate ditches and clean
- Surface water locations
- All sample location coordinates
- Monitoring well construction information (date, geological characteristics, hydrogeological characteristics)
- Landfill gas quality and quantity data
- Composting facility operating data
The data included new data as well as historical data from the City's mainframe system. Vancouver required that the system also be flexible enough to allow the addition of new parameters and monitoring locations.
To allow reporting and analysis of the data, Vancouver required that the system provide convenient output of:
* Raw data
* Specific reports including comparison to various standards
* Basic graphs and statistics
* Export data for spreadsheet programs such as Lotus or Excel
Vancouver received two proposals to design an environmental monitoring database. Both proposals exceeded $30,000 and included development of a custom database for Vancouver. After a review of the proposals it was determined that further analysis was required. The primary drawbacks of a custom database would be:
* Vancouver would need to fund the full development cost of the database
* Vancouver would need to fund any future upgrades of the system to meet technological or site changes
* Supporting the database would be expensive
An internet search as well as phone conversations with a number of potential suppliers yielded only one suitable off the shelf product, EQWin. EQWin was developed by GemTeck Environmental Software Ltd. to store and analyze environmental monitoring data for Teck's mining operations. As one would expect, environmental monitoring requirements for municipal landfills are very similar to those of mines.
EQWin met Vancouver's requirements without any modifications to the program. Historical data could be easily converted to EQWin's data storage format. New data is uploaded into the database in a manner similar to that used for uploading data into the mainframe. Data is downloaded from the analytical laboratory into a data file. The data file is imported into EQWin's worksheet and then configured for uploading into its database. A set-up and checking system validates the data prior to uploading to the database. The system is fully Y2K compliant in that all date information is stored in a yyyy/mm/dd format.
Output from EQWin also meets Vancouver's requirements. EQWin generates user configurable reports with comparisons to user specified standards, which may be calculated standards, dependant of hardness or pH, etc. If individual sample data exceed a standard, a flag is displayed adjacent to the value. EQWin also has extensive graphing and statistical functions as well as dealing with 'less-than' values, non-numeric values and parameter filtering when querying. Data can be exported for use in other spreadsheet or GIS application software.
The initial cost of EQWin was less than 1/3 of the price of a custom designed system. Ongoing development of EQWIN ensures that the program will continue to meet Vancouver's needs into the future.