International Stack Testing – Challenges and Solutions

International Stack Testing

International Stack Testing

Source emission testing, or stack testing, is an established and understood part of a facility’s production requirements in the United States. The rules and methodologies are largely known and understood, and the potential challenges that can occur are generally recognized and expected. However, when conducting the same testing in an international venue, this is often not the case. There are, in addition to the standard challenges faced in the American environment, additional challenges that will often occur, and should be known, understood, and prepared for. Environmental Source Samplers has conducted many international stack testing projects, and recognizes a few of the common challenges that can be faced, and has solutions in place to deal with them as, or even before they occur.

The first challenge is one of logistics. Mobilization is always an aspect in testing, but when occurring internationally it is much more complex, and requires very careful preparation. Equipment that can be easily located in the USA is often much more difficult to obtain abroad, and foreign analysis laboratories are not necessarily equipped to properly analyze samples obtained during the project. This means that all required equipment must be shipped to the site, and that frequently all of your collected samples must also be shipped back to the United States. For dealing with customs for your necessary samples and equipment, a Carnet document is highly useful for easing the passage, but the real key to a successful international test is preparation, and project understanding. If you know exactly what you need, in regards to lab analysis and required equipment, and prepare for all of your needs beforehand, as well as any contingencies that may arise, it will eliminate any uncertainty, and the chance that you will be left without something you need, and no easy way to obtain it.

Another challenge is that the site staff in the international facility may not have the level of experience or awareness of regulations and approved EPA methods that you would expect in the States. Many countries developing their economies have not focused on the need for environmental protection and air quality, and the industry is still very much in development in the emerging economies. Rules are sometimes unenforced or underdeveloped, and very much a learning project on the part of the site workers. Many emerging countries, such as China or India, hire an American testing firm not just on the understanding that the project will be completed correctly and professionally, but also under the expectation of knowledge transfer, a learning process for themselves so, in the future, they can conduct the testing as well. This can lead to more observers, and thus a slower process than is typical in the USA. The key to managing this challenge is to know your own requirements. International testing projects require highly experienced team and project leads, that know and understand appropriate methods, requirements, and how to obtain correct results. They need to be flexible and adaptable to potential changes in scheduling, and should expect to answer more questions, even basic ones, than they are typically accustomed to.

A final, often overlooked challenge is maintaining appropriate communication channels with your home office. Projects taking place on the other side of the world can lead to many challenges with communications, as one person’s late morning is another’s midnight. This can open the door to the possibility of missed information and failure to follow through on matters promptly, and that must, and can be avoided. Again, preparedness is the key, on part of both the home office and the staff on the international site. Make your connections count, know what you need to have done before each call or virtual meeting, and know what is expected of you. Every person must make sure that they cover all necessary points during the meeting, who is responsible for what needs to be done, and that everybody understands and is on the same page by the time the meeting is over. If you are used to working synchronously, it is advised to make a ledger of points to be brought up, to lessen the chance of something getting missed, and delayed for another period of time.

Experience is the greatest benefit, and when you conduct an international stack testing project, your stack testing team should be one that has long experience, both domestically and internationally. With careful preparation and a knowledge of the challenges to be faced, problems can be remediated or even avoided altogether, leading to the conclusion of a successful stack-testing project.

Environmental Source Samplers has conducted international stack testing projects at Johnson Atoll, in the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, and various parts of Europe. If you need a team that will do your international job with efficiency and effectiveness, give us a call at (910) 799-1055.


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International Stack Testing Project in Hong Kong Comes to a Successful Completion
Industrial Air Testing Project in Dominican Republic Completed by ESS

Brian Mellor About Brian Mellor

Brian Mellor works with Environmental Source Samplers, Inc. (ESS), an environmental consulting firm specializing in stack testing, CEMS Testing, and EPA air emissions compliance.

ESS has conducted international stack testing projects at Johnson Atoll, in the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, and various parts of Europe. If you need a team that will do your international job with efficiency and effectiveness, call ESS at (910) 799-1055 or visit