The origin of the narrow metal absorption lines in the spectra of QSOs remains uncertain despite the large amount of high-quality data obtained at high resolution over the past decade. Recently, statistical tests of a uniform sample of C IV absorption systems have shown that their redshift distribution is consistent with the view that these lines arise in randomly distributed intervening galaxies in a Friedmann Universe (Young, Sargent and Boksenberg 1982, hereafter YSB). In a complementary approach we consider in detail the physical properties of the absorbing material in cases of particular interest. We have chosen the high-redshift BL Lac object 0215+015 (Blades et al. 1982, hereafter BHMP) for detailed spectroscopic study because it is currently in a bright phase (V ∼ 14.5–16.5) and because it has several strong absorption systems with differing ionization structure. From our medium-resolution spectra of 0215+015 (BHMP) it appears that the density of C IV systems per unit redshift in this object is somewhat higher than, but not inconsistent with, the average density in the YSB sample.