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with the samples (compare or ID only) and in what time frame (regular, priority, or RUSH). After the samples are checked in on paper and elec- tronically, staffers move to the sample preparation stage. While most of us think of oil as an environmen- tal pollutant, from our perspective, the environment is polluting our oil sample. At the prep station all the water, sand, seaweed, and such is removed, leaving a "neat" (unadulterated) oil sample. The neat is then diluted with cyclohexane solvent for injection into the gas chromatograph (GC). It takes about an hour for the GC to analyze each sample. Fortunately, once the prepared vials are placed into the sample tray, an automated sample handler allows the instrument to run 24/7 without an operator. After the lab technician and the forensic chemist review the GC data, the samples are analyzed via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, which provides even more detailed information about the composi- tion. Interpreting the analytical test results is usually not straightforward because of increased analytical complexity brought about by weathering or contami- nation of the spilled oil. "Weathering," for example, includes such processes as evaporation, dissolution, biodegradation, oxidation, and other chemical, physi- cal, and biological environmental changes that alter WKH PDNHXS RI WKH VSLOOHG RLO VLJQLÀFDQWO\ FRPSOLFDW- ing the analyst's job. MSL prepares a written analysis report for each case DQG PDLQWDLQV D FRPSOHWH FDVH ÀOH WKDW LQFOXGHV • WKH H[SHUW RSLQLRQ RI D WUDLQHG IRUHQVLF FKHPLVW • D IRUZDUGLQJ OHWWHU • ODERUDWRU\ UHSRUW ZLWK UHVXOWV DQG FRQFOXVLRQV • VDPSOH FKHFN LQ ORJ • FDVH GRFXPHQWDWLRQ VXFK DV WKH DQDO\VLV UHTXHVW DQG FKDLQ RI FXVWRG\ • TXDOLW\ DVVXUDQFH VKHHW • FRVW UHFRYHU\ GRFXPHQWDWLRQ • ZRUNVKHHWV • WKH RULJLQDO WHVW GDWD How Can We Improve the Process? 06/ SURYLGHV RQ FDOO DVVLVWDQFH WR &RDVW *XDUG ÀHOG investigators, district personnel, and hearing offi- cers as well as the National Pollution Funds Center, Department of Justice, and other government agen- FLHV RQ DOO DVSHFWV RI WKH 2LO ,GHQWLÀFDWLRQ 6\VWHP 7KLV DVVLVWDQFH LQFOXGHV • • DQVZHULQJ TXHVWLRQV DQG H[SODLQLQJ WKH VLJQLÀ- cance of test results, HYDOXDWLQJ WHVW GDWD IURP RWKHU ODERUDWRULHV • SURYLGLQJ H[SHUW ZLWQHVV VXSSRUW • SODQQLQJ VDPSOLQJ VWUDWHJLHV LQ FRPSOH[ FDVHV $Q HIIHFWLYH 2LO ,GHQWLÀFDWLRQ 6\VWHP GHSHQGV XSRQ good communication and understanding among the various users of the system and Marine Safety Lab personnel. Please give us a call. We are eager to help! About the author: Dr. Wayne Gronlund has 43 years of service with the Coast Guard, and is currently the manager of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Lab. He has a bachelor's degree from the USCG Academy, an MALS in physical science, and a PhD in chemistry. He is a retired Coast Guard captain and professor emeritus from the Coast Guard Acad- emy. Endnotes: 1. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Available at www.uscg.mil/foia/docs/DWH/ BPDWH.pdf. 2. 2LO 6SLOO ,GHQWLÀFDWLRQ 6\VWHP USCG R&D Center Report No. CG-D-52-77 (NTIS #ADA044750), 1977. 3. Sample Handling and Transmittal Guide, Version 7.0. U. S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory, October 2010. 50 Proceedings Fall 2012 www.uscg.mil/proceedings