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Check our Blog page regularly for continually changing info, articles, news, and more!

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  • 27 Aug 2019 6:00 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)


    Have you ever judged a science fair? Science fairs are held on levels from individual school fairs up to the state science fair.  I have been volunteering for several years now and I am always amazed at the ideas many young scientists are developing.  Science fair participants are budding young scientists and as a judge you can help them to improve their scientific method and investigative skills. Inspire them to be better researchers and problem solvers.


    There is also an exchange of inspiration.  These are not the typical solar system model, lava volcano science fair projects that were presented in the days of old.  Many students are aware of issues we deal with in the world around us and they are looking for solutions.  Some of the projects from this year include:

    • Development of imaging tools used for medical diagnosis, faster MRI scanning;
    • A computer aided surgical tool for precision spinal surgery;
    • Studying the effects of antibiotics consumed by humans on resistance of E. coli in water systems.

    Participant’s passion is displayed when they are explaining their projects.  The reward of seeing the twinkle in their eye, even when they know you don’t grasp all the information they are presenting.  A lot of time and energy are invested in the research for these projects and science fairs are not possible without judges. 


    The new school year has started, and science fair season will begin soon as well.  If you have the opportunity, judge a science fair and share in fostering the next generation of scientists. 


    By Adele Rucker

  • 26 Jul 2019 8:16 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Has this situation ever happened to you in your lab?


    Something goes wrong with a test, so you order a new chemical and the new chemical fixes the problem. You are happy your problem is fixed, but you are stuck with a batch of chemical that you don’t want to keep around in your lab since it may have been the source of the problem. You decide to dispose of it, but when you pull out your Safety Data Sheet (SDS), under disposal considerations, it says: “Dispose of in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations.” You think, what the heck does that mean? Where do I go to track down this information? You are stuck holding on to a bottle of chemical that you are 95% sure can go into the trash but you want to do things correctly for the environment and follow all the rules. What do you do?


    I went to a few different places to scope it out. I started on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website and checked out their SDS page.  There I learned that the disposal considerations section is listed as “Non-Mandatory”. Huh? I guess proper disposal isn’t so important. In fact, sections on regulatory, transport, and ecological information are also non-mandatory. Sorry little fishes and other creatures of the world. That isn’t to say that disposal doesn’t matter to OSHA, they still have high expectations that hazardous materials are properly disposed of. Upon further reading, the reason they don’t enforce disposal is because other agencies enforce it and someone else has it covered.


    Who is that someone else?   How do you know what jurisdiction disposal falls under? Well, that’s a good question. The American Veterinary Medical Association explained waste regulation the best, “Simply put, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the disposal of products with environmental impact; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates factors associated with potential employee exposure to hazardous substances; the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides guidance pertaining to products used in the workplace that impact human and public health; and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulates the disposal of controlled substances.” That’s a lot of regulators!


    Despite all these agencies involvement, ultimately proper disposal is up to the disposer. So how do you figure out what to do? I eventually stumbled upon a citation for an actual list of regulated hazardous waste listed in the Code of Federal Regulations. In 40 CFR § 261 Subpart D lists out the categories of hazardous wastes, and within each category, the types of waste or the specific chemicals that are classified as hazardous. For the individual chemicals, the list includes the chemical name, hazardous waste classification number, CAS number, and information on why it is listed as hazardous (i.e. toxic, flammable, corrosive, etc…).


    Verification of your chemical on EPA’s list is not enough. In some cases, state regulations are more stringent than the EPA regulations, so you still need to check with your state to see if the compound is hazardous or not. All states should have some guidance on this. In Colorado, it is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Colorado Hazardous Waste Regulations, Part 261 Identification and Listing of Hazardous Waste”. Pages 84-105 have a similar list to the EPA’s where you can check to see if it is on the list.


    Even then it may not be enough. If you are planning on dumping the chemical down the drain, you will also need to check with your local wastewater treatment plant. If you are the local WWTP, hopefully you already know what is allowed down the drain and what isn’t. If not, check in with your pretreatment department to see what guidance document they have on waste disposal. You should also check with your solid waste provider. I had a hard time finding any info on hazardous waste disposal for Denver, but Denver actually has a customer technical assistance line that could likely answer some questions. 


    Unfortunately, the search for the appropriate disposal does not end here. Once you know whether you are dealing with hazardous or non-hazardous compounds, you still need to dispose of it properly. This is still a bit of a mystery to me. It appears non-hazardous waste can be disposed of in the trash, but I don’t know of that is 100% true. Some guidance mentioned that bottles should be rinsed and the label removed, but it didn’t sound like a must. I searched 40 CFR and CDPHE’s website for non-hazardous waste disposal and came up with nothing. I’m sure this information is out there. The search continues…


    If you have knowledge of more in depth instructions or information on waste disposal, please contact a RMWQAA board member, reply to this post, or start a discussion in the forum, so that our membership can be more informed. 


    Natalie Love is the Laboratory Director at GEI Consultants, Inc. GEI conducts Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Testing, low-level nutrient analysis, and benthic macroinvertebrate identifications. She lives in Denver with her husband, 2 daughters, and mastiff.

  • 11 Jun 2019 8:36 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. ~ John F. Kennedy


    The Broomfield Wastewater Laboratory has been undergoing change for the past 4 months.  Several analysts have been promoted and assumed new duties. Even with the process working relatively smoothly, it took 4 months for the laboratory to be completely staffed. We were lucky that we had such dedicated and competent analysts that wanted to advance.  This process made me think about the importance of succession planning.


    So, what is succession planning?  It is a process designed to ensure the continued effective performance of an organization by creating a steady and reliable pipeline of talent that will meet its future needs in leadership and other key roles.


    In a laboratory it is important to train at least two analysts on the same procedure.  The procedure can be the primary duty of one analyst and the other analyst can be used for back-up. That way you have coverage for vacations and sick leave.  This is also beneficial when a person decides to quit or retire, because you aren’t left without someone who can step-up and fill the gap.


    It is the lab supervisor’s job to make their staff successful.  Don’t put roadblocks in their way.


    McKinsey said there are seven obstacles to successful talent management:

        1.    Senior managers don’t spend enough high-quality time on talent management

        2.    Organization is “siloed” and does not encourage constructive collaboration and sharing of resources

        3.    Line managers are not sufficiently committed to development of people’s capabilities and careers

        4.    Line managers are unwilling to differentiate their people as top-average and under-performers

        5.    Senior leaders are not sufficiently involved in shaping talent management strategy

        6.    Senior leaders do not align talent management strategy with business strategy

        7.    Line managers do not address under-performance effectively, even when chronic


    Take the time and look at your team and talk to them about their future plans.  Establish a process to start succession planning. Some stats to consider: 66% of senior managers hired from the outside usually fail within the first 18 months (Center for Creative Leadership); companies with a succession plan that results in an internal hire “are less likely to experience this negative effect on employee morale” (Making Transitions Work,” Canadian Center for Management Development)


    Lesa Julian has worked for the City and County of Broomfield for 28 years.  She is currently the Environmental Services Superintendent.

  • 25 May 2019 2:58 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    After bouncing around some ideas for this month’s RMWQAA blog, I decided that what I wanted to do was to present some good local news in the water field. So I poked around a little bit, found some tidbits of good water news from the Rocky Mountain area, and decided to share.


    A disclaimer: Since good news, very much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, these represent good news in my own personal opinion.


    #1: 2019 is a very good year for snowfall!

    There are a slew of different snow pack estimates out there, but the general consensus is that this year’s runoff could lift Colorado out of drought, at least for now.  This oft referred to SNOTEL map from the USDA shows that the total Colorado Snow Water Equivalent is 240% of median (on 5/23/2019).



    Of course, the actual amount of usable water depends on factors such as temperature, runoff, and evaporation. However, the United States Drought Monitor, which had estimated that 77% of Colorado was experiencing drought conditions as late as July 2018, earlier this month estimated that less than 1% of the state is classified as being in drought conditions.


    This is also very good news for New Mexico, where predictions of flow into Elephant Butte Lake (one of the major agricultural reservoirs for southern New Mexico, and fed by Colorado’s Upper Rio Grande Basin) are at 155% of average. That is compared to 13% of average last year. This bodes well for water use and storage for all other states downstream from Colorado too.


    #2: There was a new Colorado River drought plan signed on May 19

    Speaking of states downstream from Colorado, all seven states (CO, NM, CA, AZ, WY, NV, and UT) in the Colorado River compact and the federal government have signed an agreement to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead (the two largest reservoirs in the US) from being depleted. Under the agreement, water deliveries would be reduced to states based on varying water levels in the reservoirs.


    This is not a perfect agreement, but it does mention the future need to adjust for global warming and the likely scenario that future water allocations may be curtailed by 15-35%. So, progress.


    #3: Colorado is pushing back against lax Clean Water Act (CWA) protections

    Moving on from water quantity to water quality.


    Colorado’s Attorney General has called for a halt to proposed new USEPA rules that dismantle key parts of the CWA and remove important wetland and headwater protections in Colorado. These new rules would leave thousands of miles of Colorado waters without protections.


    Colorado is making a stand by showing that what happens in their headwaters affects everyone downstream and is fighting for clean water for fishing, recreation (which are both important economic considerations), and animal habitat.

    Colorado is one of a group of states urging the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers (who administer the CWA) not to use the new, looser guidelines.


    #4: Local water conservation taxes passed

    This goes back to the 2018 November elections, but I was unaware that while state tax proposals for infrastructure and education failed (indicating a general anti-tax bias in Colorado), local water conservation taxes in Denver, Eagle, Chaffee, and Park counties passed. These local tax successes were the result of lots of groundwork - including input from local shareholders - and indicate that voters will agree to increased taxes if there is a direct need and there is a sound and fair plan for spending the money.


    Hopefully this local approval of tax-based water conservation projects bodes well for funding the Colorado Water Plan (CWP), which may be offered as a ballot measure in 2020. The CWP is a huge statewide initiative that would fund new water projects, protect stream quality and aquatic life, implement conservation programs, protect agriculture, and keep up with increased demand. The estimated cost will be about $100,000,000 per year for 20 years. If offered as a ballot issue, it will be the biggest direct water issue ever put in front of Colorado voters.


    I know that for water professionals there isn’t always a lot of good news right in front of us. Look for and appreciate the good news that is out there!


    Rich MacAlpine, whose opinions here are solely his own, is currently a Laboratory Supervisor at Metro Wastewater Reclamation District

  • 20 Apr 2019 2:21 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    On March 21st, members of the RMWEA/RMSAWWA Lab Practices
    Committee(LPC) and RMWQAA toured the wastewater treatment plant at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Waterton Canyon located in Littleton, Colorado. This treatment plant serves the 6200-acre facility with a rich history of industrial use. The site was first constructed in the mid 1950’s to build the Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile. Since the initial build, the company had experienced several mergers and different focuses and has been known as Lockheed Martin since 1997. 


    Over the years, the plant has manufactured hundreds of rockets designed to carry missiles, and communications satellites into space.  Crafts such as the Titan, Gemini, Viking, Voyager, and Cassini were all built at the Waterton Canyon facility.  Waterton Canyon was chosen specifically because the natural geology of the area provided more security and noise control than other sites.  In fact, the location tops a 1,700-foot-deep bedrock formation that isolates it from even the smallest seismic movement and provides the ultimate environment for testing the stability of various systems.


    Early years of rocket launch testing contaminated the soil and groundwater with rocket fuel and manufacturing chemicals.  The EPA declared it a Superfund site in 1989, however, this designation was soon removed.  Initial clean-up efforts included removal of contaminated soil, wells, and solid waste.  Decades later the main contaminant remaining in the groundwater is N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a breakdown product of hydrazine rocket fuel. Lockheed’s industrial wastewater treatment plant is responsible for treating the groundwater as well as production waste from space component manufacturing processes.  Domestic waste is collected and piped to South Platte Water Renewal Partners (previously known as Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant) where it is treated and discharged into segment 6a of the South Platte River.


    The NDMA contaminated groundwater treatment has been going on continually for the past 20 years. Luckily, the geography of the area funnels groundwater into two main channels making it easy to reclaim all of it for treatment.  NDMA is treated via UV Photolysis where it’s degraded using high levels of UV irradiation.  The Nitrogen bonds are broken leaving NO and (CH3-N=CH2).  The NO then gets oxidized into nitrite and then nitrate.  The dimethylamine oxidizes to form bicarbonate.  The UV bulbs are similar to the bulbs used in domestic wastewater plants, but instead of having a group of bulbs in a grid, only one very high-powered bulb is used. 


    Initial levels of NDMA in the groundwater were around 300 ppb. After 20 years of continual treatment, the levels have dropped to about half, and through treatment, they are able to meet their permit limit for NDMA.


    Other waste streams contain high levels of chromium and zinc from manufacturing or washing processes.  Aluminum is etched off of casings of crafts to minimize the weight and fuel it takes to launch.  Chromium plating is used to prevent oxidation.  The metals are treated using hydroxide precipitation, followed by polymer flocculation. The sludge is then dewatered with a sludge press and dried for disposal. The final effluent water goes through sand filtration, Nitrite oxidation, carbon feed, granular activated carbon (GAC), ion exchange, and final pH adjustment.  


    The industrial wastewater treatment plant discharges just upstream of Chatfield Reservoir, which requires discharges to meet stringent fishery, recreation, and drinking water standards outlined in Control Regulation Reg 73 that can be found here:    https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/73_2009%2803%29header.pdf   


    Lockheed Martin hasn’t had a permit violation for decades and has actively participated in the Chatfield Watershed Authority. The tour was very informative and interesting.  Although we didn’t get to tour any of the rest of the top-secret, high-security site, we did see the hillside that they once launched rockets into as well as a peek at the new $350 million dollar Gateway Center right next door to the plant.  You can read more about that here:  https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/capabilities/space/gateway-center.html


    Michelle Neilson, Water Quality Technician, has been with Metro Wastewater for 8.5 years.  She has a B.S. in Chemistry, and has 19 years of experience in the Environmental field.  Michelle has worked for USGS, contract laboratories, and several municipal wastewater and drinking water labs prior to Metro Wastewater.

  • 21 Mar 2019 10:18 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    PFASs or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances have become a growing concern over the last decade due to widespread use and persistence in the environment and in the human body. According to the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. The most common types of PFAS include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), however, there are many other forms which are not studied as well and used throughout the world.  They can be found in non-stick cookware, water repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, firefighting foams, and products resistant to grease, water, and oil. The widespread production and use of PFAS contributes to its ubiquity not only in the environment, but also leads to its accumulation and persistence in the human body.


    Environmental exposure to PFAS could occur through multiple methods from contact with the manufacturing process, usage, and disposal of PFAS products. For example, surface water or groundwater and the surrounding soil becoming contaminated after receiving run-off in areas where firefighting foam was used. According to the EPA, human exposure can occur through daily usage of popular consumer products such as cookware, stain repellants, and even pizza boxes. A major concern with PFAS exposure is its persistence and ability to stay in the environment and in living organisms for a long period of time. As a result of repeated exposure, the amount of chemical in the bodies of humans and animals alike can accumulate and lead to adverse health effects.


    Researchers have been studying the adverse health effects in animal models to better understand how these chemicals cause toxicity and what organ systems are being affected. Studies indicate that the PFAS can disrupt endocrine activity, reduce immune function, and can cause adverse effects on multiple organs including the liver, kidneys, and pancreas (NIH, 2019). Epidemiological studies with humans, though limited, have shown an increase in cholesterol levels, cancer, and thyroid hormone disruption (EPA, 2019). Although more research is needed to fully understand the health risks and impacts of PFAS, actions have been taken to limit the exposure to these chemicals.


    The EPA lowered the non-binding health advisory limit for some PFAS compounds found in public water systems. However, because of the growing concern that these chemicals may cause adverse effects to human health at lower levels, further action was taken to reduce exposure in some states. In Fountain, Colorado, the EPA announced the first-ever comprehensive nationwide PFAS action plan. The plan consists of expanding PFAS monitoring in the environment, enhancing scientific research for addressing PFAS by developing new analytical methods and tools, and clarifying clean up strategies. Furthermore, two chemical classes of PFAS have been phased out of industry in the United States, PFOA and PFOS, and the EPA is working to list these chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund Program (ATSDR, 2018). Future strategies and regulations include recommendations in the clean-up of the persisting PFOA and PFOS levels in groundwater and expanding limitations to other chemical classes of PFAS.


    References:

    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2018 January 10). Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and your health. Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/overview.html


    Brady, J., Hurdle, J. Phillips, S. (2019 February 14). EPA says it plans to limit toxic PFAS chemicals, but not soon enough for critics. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/02/14/694660716/epa-says-it-will-regulate-toxic-pfas-chemicals-but-not-soon-enough-for-critics

    National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (2019, March 8). Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc/index.cfm


    United States Environmental Protection Agency (2019 February 13). News release: EPA to announce first-ever comprehensive nationwide PFAS action plan in Fountain, Colorado. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announce-first-ever-comprehensive-nationwide-pfas-action-plan-fountain-colorado


    United States Environmental Protection Agency. Basic Information on PFAS. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas#main-content


    Ashley Romero is the Laboratory Manager at GEI Consultants, Inc. and has a background in ecotoxicology.

  • 28 Feb 2019 10:07 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    February was a busy month for the RMWQAA with a brewery tour and participation in the Metropolitan State University of Denver's Water Career Fair. The Breckenridge Brewery’s Littleton campus hosted a group of nearly 30 analysts for a FREE, fun-filled tour of the beautiful brewery and tasting room. After having all our questions answered by the tour guide and laboratory guru, we wrapped up in the restaurant with a rousing game of telephone. Just as much fun as elementary school with pink pigs flying!




    Five RMWQAA members manned a booth at Metro’s water career fair on Tuesday February 26th. RMWQAA flyers and handouts summarizing other resources for water careers were provided to attendees. Many students stopped by the fair to chat with our RMWQAA leaders about their jobs in the water field, promoting the value of water careers.


    Don’t miss out on future RMWQAA and RMWEA-LPC sponsored events! There are still open spots in the upcoming Lockheed Martin Tour. Sign up today!!


  • 17 Jan 2019 1:28 PM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    To kick off 2019, RMWQAA was pleased to sponsor a tour of the ERA lab in Golden, Colorado. Tucked up aside one of the many beautiful hills that dot the Front range, about 18 people were treated to an inside look at a premier proficiency testing laboratory. ERA was founded in 1977 in Chicago, Illinois by a pair of cousins who were also prominent members with Test America and Colorado Analytical. ERA was acquired in 2006 by Waters Corp, the worldwide leader in liquid chromatography, mass spec, and thermal analyses. Waters Corp now houses the lab we were visiting on the 9th of January, where they have been located since 2011.


    After a quick introduction to our tour guides Daniel, Colleen, and Curtis and an emergency exit protocol reminder, we were off in groups of 5 or 6 to check out the lab and surrounding offices. Being the largest proficiency testing company in the U.S. requires quite a large lab and a hefty workforce to go with it. This was apparent when we were shown to the laboratory, where nearly half of ERA’s 86 employees work. The lab is split into sections, with an inorganic side and an organics side. The inorganic side is responsible for much of the proficiency testing and quality control work. They also run IC and mercury analyses, as well as TOC and conductivity for ultra pure water systems. To the side and in a separate room is where they work with their soil samples. It was interesting to find out later on that they typically collect enough soil to work with the same batch for 6-7 years.

    On the opposite site of the lab we found organics analyses being performed. These included radio-chem testing, gas and liquid chromatography, and a separate room for microbiological testing. This side of the lab was also where Waters Corp employees did work with their standards and reagents. Just outside the laboratory we found the shipping department, a highly organized and well-oiled machine of a workforce. Even in January they were already prepared to ship hundreds of orders and prepare thousands

     more! I couldn’t exactly pinpoint their method of organization, but it was clear they knew what they were doing and where every item could be found!


    As we looped back towards the start of the tour, we were introduced to the various customer service teams at ERA. The IT department consisted of 5 individuals, highlighted by Harlan, who was responsible for creating the eDATA platform that ERA and its customers use to analyze data. This was implemented in 2015 and is an impressive piece of programming worth digging into! Next to the IT department was a group of 8 people who handle the large volume of calls and e-mails received nationally and internationally. Between them they typically take over 200 calls per day! The remaining positions taken in the customer service department of ERA were the 3 individuals who communicate with state and regulatory bodies, check data for accuracy, and handle reports. In 2014 Waters ERA established a 2-day turn around for final study reports following the end of a PT run. These three people manage to double check reports and data for errors AND get the reports sent out quickly. Clearly the 12-15 years of experience, on average, between the three of them has produced some high quality work!


    The tour concluded with a walk through the main room, where it was pointed out that each of the conference rooms were named for elements. Meeting in the Hydrogen room, ASAP! Once we settled into the original meeting room with some cookies to snack on, we were treated to a solid Q&A session with five prominent members of the ERA staff. Between Tom, Curtis, Mike, Tom, and Brian we attempted to gain all the insight from the decades of experience standing before us. While we weren’t able to acquire the answers to this years DMRQA’s (sorry all), we did find out a couple of interesting bits of information:

                  

    -Most, if not all of the customer service department teams also have Biology or

    Chemistry degrees, and typically everyone began work in a lab prior to joining their team.


            -ERA handles over 600,000 individual data points each year.


            -If you are looking to receive a proficiency test for a certain analyte and it isn’t available, chances are not enough labs are looking to participate in the same test. It takes 15-20 labs in order for ERA to develop enough quality data to permit sending proficiency testing materials for a certain test. Some labs running the more obscure analyses may have to look elsewhere or talk some other labs into requesting some proficiency testing.


            -Ever wonder what the most failed DMRQA analysis is? Surprisingly it’s pH!! Due to the sheer volume of data points taken, the high confidence level on QC for pH correlates to a range much smaller than other tests. Flip that and look at the least failed DMRQA: BOD! With the widest range of acceptable values, this test tends to hit most often, though that still doesn’t seem to make the BOD setup any less stressful.


    Thanks to all of the people involved in putting this tour together as well as those employed by ERA in helping create accurate QC and PT data! Personally, I walked away with a great amount of respect for the process that goes into creating our proficiency tests that we rely on to prove our accuracy to the state, and really enjoyed touring Waters’ ERA facility! They also sent us home with a sweet color changing mug, some always needed pens, and a flash drive for all those data points!



    *Photos were not allowed to be taken in the lab, my apologies for the lack of pictures to go with the newsletter*



    Tyler Eldridge has a BA in Biology from CSU. He is a Water Quality Analyst for the City of Greeley, volunteers for the RMWQAA, and maintains the RMWQAA website.


  • 29 Dec 2018 5:26 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Dissolved Organic Carbon is one of the key water quality components affecting aluminum toxicity and the EPA has taken DOC into account in the newest version of the aluminum criteria. The EPA read through hundreds of comments on the draft aluminum criteria and has made significant improvements over the previous 1988 version that reflect the newest science. The new criteria was only published this month and it will be a while before Colorado and other states fully adopt the new criteria. The EPA has created a tool to help dischargers calculate the aluminum criteria for their site. All you need are the pH, hardness, and DOC concentrations for the receiving water and you can find out the expected new aluminum criteria for your site. So get out there and collect your data now so you can be prepared when the new criteria are implemented in your state. Click here to read the full aluminum criteria document.


  • 28 Nov 2018 8:56 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    These days drones are everywhere in the news….drones surveying landscapes, drones taking pictures, even drones delivering pizza. At a recent conference, drones were again at the center of the conversation, but this time, the talk was about drones collecting water samples.

     

    For anyone who has spent a day launching a boat, and fighting waves, seagulls, and other hazards, the idea of drones doing all that work for you sounds pretty good. While there are numerous benefits to drone sampling, there are significant costs associated with it too.

     

    Let’s start with the positives. Drones can provide an excellent tool for reaching hard to access waterbodies. Much of the drone water sampling currently is at pit lakes at mine sites where access to the water’s edge is risky. Drones allow personnel to work safely, well away from the water’s surface. 

     

    Another benefit is the ability to collect samples at numerous depths using Kemmerer or Van Dorn-type samplers. This allows the sampler to get the same quality data from various depths without being in unsafe conditions. Drones can even be fitted with probes that collect a full suite of standard water column profile data such as depth, pH, temperature, and conductivity.

     

    Even though the upfront cost of a drone sampling system would be high, in the long run, the savings would likely be made up in personnel costs. Typically, launching a boat requires a minimum of two people for safety reasons, and unless the boat is permanently in the water, getting the boat to the site, launching, and all the required sampling can be quite time consuming. Drones can save a significant amount of time by simplifying the entire sampling process.

     

    Drones aren’t for everyone. They do require licensed pilots and many flying restrictions such as keeping the drone within your line of sight and avoiding certain airspace, makes them infeasible for some sites. Battery power is also still a limiting factor. The standard flight time when carrying heavy loads of water can be as short as 15 minutes, meaning numerous sites may not be sampled in a single day without battery replacement or recharging.

     

    As the temperatures drop, you might be imagining piloting a drone from the warmth of your car, rather than sitting in a cold boat, hoping you don’t get splashed. Unfortunately, if high winds or fog are present, the drone may be grounded and you’ll be stuck sampling the old fashioned way. Despite the drawbacks, drones are allowing samplers to work in much safer conditions than ever before. As long as researchers continue to think up new uses for drones, we may one day be able to stay cozy warm while lake sampling is still getting done.

     

    Natalie Love is the Laboratory Director at GEI Consultants, Inc. GEI conducts Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Testing, low-level nutrient analysis, and benthic macroinvertebrate identifications. She lives in Denver with her husband, 2 daughters, and mastiff.

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