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Monthly Blog

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

  • 25 Sep 2018 9:19 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)


    Analysts from Northglenn, Broomfield, Metro, and Aurora display their molecule string art made at the Summer Social 2018


    What is Networking?  Jockeying for position for a new job?  Hob nobbing with more “important” people?  Memorizing the names and personal addresses of 50 people in a room?  Maybe it’s not as hard as it seems.  The best way to network for one person may be the complete opposite for another.  This is more of a discussion around why networking is even a thing and how to approach it with a healthy goal in mind.  For many of us lab folks, the idea of networking can be exhausting and really freak us out.  So, why should we get out of the comfort zone of the lab to mix and mingle with other lab people?  Analytical skills don’t always cross-over to people skills but getting to know people in other labs can be important for many different reasons.  It can lead to:

    • Sharing of ideas. What better way to learn about a new process, method, or way of doing things than in a casual setting over a drink or bite to eat?

    • Solving problems. Our field is not Top Secret. Labs are often reluctant to tell others when things are going wrong, but in this community, people want to help and by opening up and sharing issues you are having in your lab, you can learn other options to solve your problems.
    • Sharing of instruments/reagents/chemicals. How many times have you realized that you are out of a certain chemical and there is no way to get a new batch in time. Maybe that new person you chatted with at the lab nearby can spare enough to get you out of a pickle.
    • New friends. The lab community is full of interesting, amazing people who you may have a connection with beyond the basic chit chat.  If nothing else, you now have familiar faces to say hello to at future conferences and trainings.
    • Future job opportunities. Being able to put a face with a name increases the likelihood of standing out in a sea of resumes.
    • Growing your skill set. Networking can open the door to new programs, projects, and professional organizations that can all help you grow in your professional career.

    So, what to do if you like the sound of these outcomes, but don’t feel comfortable at networking events?  First of all, not many people truly feel comfortable networking, so keep it in mind that the person standing next to you may be just as uncomfortable as you.  If mingling is not your strong suit, try setting a goal of talking to just one or two people or getting an answer to a very specific lab issue at an event.  One easy way to get to know others at networking events is to ask lots of questions.  A few to get you started:

    • What lab do you work in and what analyses do you do?
    • Do you use any contract labs for anything? Do you like them?
    • What analysis do you have the most issues with? Why?
    • Are there any new methods you are considering keeping in-house?
    • What certifications do you have/what auditors have you worked with? What has your experience been with them?
    • What do you anticipate being the biggest challenge for your lab in the coming year?
    • What are the biggest successes you have had?

    Keep all this in mind when you come to the holiday social this December 6th!  We all love to see new faces as well as catch up with those we haven’t seen in a while. 

  • 10 Aug 2018 2:38 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)


    The City and County of Broomfield has been contracting low-level mercury analyses for many years. The permit requires monthly sampling of the effluent.  We also collect upstream and influent samples for comparison. The sampling requires two people to grab four samples a day (every two hours) and then prepare a flow proportional composite from these samples.  The contract lab was awesome because they would provide us with a cooler with everything that we needed for the sampling event (pre-cleaned bottles, bags, gloves).  We would send them the individual bottles and then they would composite the samples based on the flow data that we provided.  However, on several occasions, the bottles broke during transit.  Also, it often took weeks to get the results to us.  Since this is a required monthly test, this was stressful, because we would need to know before the end of the month if there was an issue with the sample, so we could resample if necessary.


    As we were planning for a laboratory expansion in 2015, we discussed the possibility of bringing this analysis in-house.  We visited the City of Ft. Collins wastewater lab and Ginger Wynne and the staff were kind enough to give us a tour of their lab and show us their low-level mercury setup.   We realized that we didn’t need a “clean” room, so we started thinking that this could work for us. We worked with the design team to create a metals/mercury lab with PVC fume hoods and polypropylene cabinets. The instrument’s autosampler can be covered to prevent contamination from environmental factors in the laboratory.


    We purchased the mercury analyzer with the expansion and waited until we had everything else set-up in the lab before we brought in the instrument.  The laboratory was completed in August 2017 and the analyzer setup and training occurred the first week of October 2017.  After the initial training, it took a few more weeks to get the argon gas sparging system setup.  By April 2018, the method development was complete, and the first monthly samples were analyzed in-house.  Starting in August 2018, we will also begin analyzing our industrial pretreatment samples in-house.


    So, if you were thinking that you have to have a Class 1 cleanroom to perform low level mercury analyses, maybe this will make you realize that isn’t necessary.  You do need to have a dedicated “clean” space that is not near any analyses that have mercury in a reagent (looking at you TKNs) and analysts that are diligent about keeping that space clean.





    Lesa Julian is the Wastewater Laboratory Supervisor for the City and County of Broomfield.

  • 29 Jul 2018 6:21 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    On July 27, 2018 about 13 people braved the gorgeous weather and semi-busy Friday afternoon westbound traffic on I-70 to travel to Georgetown on a RMWEA sponsored tour of the Georgetown Wastewater Treatment Plant. Besides the learning opportunity and the chance to be in the mountains, beer after the tour at the local Guanella Pass Brewery was also offered as enticement. No wonder the tour was fully booked!


    The tour focused on the improvements to nutrient and metal removal technologies that were completed in 2011. These treatment upgrades include an Integrated Fixed-film Activated Sludge system (IFAS) and tertiary polishing of the effluent before chlorination and discharge.


    The 2009-2011 Georgetown WWTP upgrades increased the rated flow by 40%, up to 1.2 MGD. The current average flow is between 0.3 MGD and 0.6 MGD. There is still a lot of room to grow, but there is a large new construction project about a mile upstream from the WWTP that is expected to increase flows by 30% when it is complete.


    Once entering the plant (by the way, all flows to the Georgetown WWTP are gravity fed-the city does not have a single pump station), the influent is screened and then enters the secondary treatment area (no primary clarification needed!).



    The upgrades included addition of an additional secondary basin with IFAS included for both basins. The attached biomass on the IFAS media (which always looks like tiny plastic pizzelle cookies to me – sorry if you loved pizzelles!) provides increased nitrogen removal (nitrification/denitrification) and some phosphorus removal, while the traditional flocculated activated sludge provides traditional BOD and TSS removal. On the day we were there we were told that both basins were being used, but that the operators go down to one basin during the winter due to reduced flows. The IFAS media takes up about 40% of the volume of each basin, and while the SRT in the basins for the flocculated activated sludge is about 21 days, the media has yet to be replaced after seven years.


    Effluent from the secondary enters an equalization (EQ) tank. This is the old secondary clarifier that has been modified to be used as an EQ tank. After the EQ tank, the effluent enters the new secondary clarifier, where it remains for “a few hours” before going to the sand filters.

    The sand filters are the other main technology that was added during the 2009-2011 upgrade. It is an upflow system with two passes. The upflow system allows the effluent to enter at the bottom of the conical shaped filter area and then flow against the flow of the sand. This technology reduces both phosphorous and metals by 90-95% during each pass.


    Georgetown is currently discharging phosphorous at well below their permit limit of 0.3 ppm which equates to greater than 90% removal from their influent phosphorus of 3-4 ppm. Metals such as copper, zinc, cadmium, and lead are also greatly reduced using the sand filters.


    After polishing in the sand filters, the effluent enters a traditional chlorine contact basin where it has about 30 minutes contact with chlorine before being dechlorinated with sodium bisulfate before being discharged into Clear Creek right below Georgetown Lake. Georgetown WWTP now uses sodium hypochlorite for disinfection, but they used to make chlorine gas on site!


    On the solids side, Georgetown uses a screw press to dewater their solids after digestion. Biosolids are then sent to McDonald farms in Denver, as they do not meet land application requirements. Georgetown is happy to have their own screw press (especially since it works great and can achieve 26% solids), as they used to have to share only a mobile screw press between them, Idaho Springs, and Morrison!


    Thanks to the City of Georgetown and RMWEA for the great tour. I was unable to make the beer part of the tour, but I still had a great time and learned a lot!


    Richard MacAlpine holds an MS in Environmental Science (WQ Emphasis) from CU-Denver, is on the Education Subcommittee of RMWQAA, and has worked in the lab at Metro Wastewater Reclamation District for the last decade plus.

  • 06 Jun 2018 8:06 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Barr Lake shares a rich history in Colorado and has seen many Barr Lake and local wildlifeevolutions in the last 130 years. Today, it is known state-wide as one of the best birding landscapes with over 370 bird species identified. If you’ve ever flown into or out of Denver International Airport you would likely capture a glimpse of the three-square mile body of water. At 1,900 acres, Barr Lake comprises seventy percent of the 2,700-acre State Park. Located 27 miles north of Denver in Brighton, Colorado, Barr Lake is used

    today for irrigation, drinking water, and recreation. Major recreational activities include hunting, fishing, birding, biking, hiking, picnicking, and nature studies.


    Barr Lake is approximately nine miles around with depths near thirty-five feet. At 2.7 miles long and 1.7 miles wide, much of the southern periphery maintains wallows and flooded cottonwood trees. The lake is divided in half with the north-side dedicated as a recreational area and the south-side designated as a wildlife refuge. The lake is fed by the South Platte River. Barr Lake feeds several canals to support irrigation for agriculture in the surrounding area, the most notable are the Denver and Hudson Canals. Milton reservoir is located north of Hudson and is also fed by the South Platte River.  There is a ditch, Beebe Canal, that connects Barr Lake to Milton Reservoir.


    Before it was a lake, the area was an extensive wallow. The area was lush with vegetation and supported migrating species. Since the Ice-Age, millions of free-ranging bison migrated through these areas. It wasn’t until 1876 during the American westward expansion that their numbers were nearly eradicated. During this time, cowboys rounded up Spanish steer and drove them along the Goodnight-Loving Trail from Texas to Wyoming through the wallows.



    Construction of the Denver-Hudson Canal


    The railroads accelerated western expansion and transformed the western landscape into opportunities and dreams. The Barr Depot was established in 1881 bringing settlers, tourists, and entrepreneurs. In 1891, the Denver Reservoir and Irrigation Company inundated the wallows from the South Platte River to create Oasis Reservoir. The newly formed reservoir attracted the affluent from Denver. In 1896, the Oasis Hunting Club was formed and offered “city-dwellers the opportunity to rusticate in the great outdoors.” With great expectations developers tried to create Barr City. However, with the closure of the railroad depot in 1931, a second city for Denver never came to fruition.



    Barr Lake was officially created to meet the increasing water demands for a rapidly growing state, the Farmer’s Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO) inundated the reservoir for the second time in 1908. It was boasted the reservoir could irrigate 25,000 acres annually.


    Due to seventy years of abuse and diversion of waste water from the South Platte River, the Denver Stockyards, and the sewage treatment plant, Barr Lake needed another transformation. In 1964, the Colorado legislature proclaimed Barr Lake a “menace to health, safety and welfare.” The same year, Metro Wastewater was upgraded and relocated to its current location on York Street. To protect the natural resources, Barr Lake became a state park in 1977.


    “On June 16, 1965, a powerful storm swelled the waters of the South Platte. Raging water rushed down the irrigation canals and into Barr Lake, effectively flushing the sewage from the lake. This natural disaster afforded Barr Lake a chance for renewal. Recognizing the need to prevent pollution of this revitalized landscape, Colorado State Parks created Barr lake State Park in 1977. Then, as now, it is preserved as ‘an island of habitat in a sea of urban development.’” (quote taken form Barr Lake State Park pamphlet)


    Birding at Barr Lake



    Barr Lake is co-managed for irrigation/drinking water and recreation. The reservoir is overseen by FRICO and the Denver-Hudson Canal is overseen by the Henrylyn Irrigation District. Each company owns and operates the respective land and water within. Water quality monitoring is conducted regularly by Barr Lake & Milton Reservoir Watershed Association.


    Barr Lake Timeline
    (provided by Barr Lake & Milton Reservoir Watershed Association, 2007)

    1890’s   –Oasis Reservoir used for Recreation & Irrigation

    1900’s   –Doubled in Size and Renamed by FRICO

    1950’s   –Water Quality at its Worst

    1964     –Metro Wastewater Upgraded and Relocated

    1978     –Barr Lake State Park & Wildlife Refuge

    1994     –FRICO Started Monitoring Regularly

    2002     –303(d) Listed for High pH

    2004     –Domestic Water Supply Use Added

    2006     –20th Year for Nesting Bald Eagles

    2016       –Awarded People's Choice​ "2016 Business of the Year" by Brighton Chamber of Commerce

     Sunset at Barr Lake by Bernie Ernie Jr.


    Gerald Gaper earned a masters and doctoral degree in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. With fourteen years of laboratory experience, Gerald’s early focus utilized analytical instrumentation to identify and characterize chemical compounds in water, bacteria, and on surfaces. Gerald worked on a variety of research projects for the pharmaceutical and academic sector, including Colorado State University. Over the last four years Gerald served the Denver Zoological Foundation as a Chemical Process Engineer and a Water Systems Manager overseeing the operations of pump stations and small water treatment facilities. Gerald managed the operations of a water quality laboratory while creating a development program for employees and an operational framework for the department.


    Gerald lives next to the open space in Westminster and enjoys spending time with his wife and three dogs. In his free time, he works on a 1972 F250 Highboy 4x4 truck and volunteers in the local community. He serves as a volunteer designing exhibits for the Evergreen Autobahn Society, garbage cleanup of waterways for the City of Westminster Open Space, dog walker for City of Aurora Animal Shelter, and photographer for the Kawasaki Kids Foundation. He is the Vice President of Education for Toastmaster International, Lafayette Chapter. Gerald serves as a member of the RMWQAA Education Subcommittee designing presentations and writing newsletters.

  • 02 May 2018 9:45 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Spring is in the air and it’s time to spawn!  Each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) employees aid in the spawning process for millions of fish at reservoirs across the state. These reservoirs are used for sport fishing and recreation and are home to brown trout, kokanee, cutthroat trout, and walleye.  Human intervention in the spawning process help to manage and maintain populations.  Local walleye spawning happens at Cherry Creek Reservoir, Chatfield Reservoir, and Pueblo Reservoir. 


    A few Metro Wastewater employees were able to volunteer to help with CPW’s efforts in March.  Here’s how things went:


    I spent a nice sunny day at Cherry Creek with five CPW employees who work all over the state but come to Denver for the “Walleye Spawn” each year.  First, we rode out on a pontoon boat and collected 11 gill nets that were set the previous day.  These very long nets (6ft x ~400 meters each) have relatively big holes which are designed to selectively collect larger fish. Large fish like gizzard shad and white suckers get stuck in the nets.  We found them, handpicked them out and threw them back.  Things are different when a walleye is reeled in.  The walleye is carefully removed from the net and placed in the boat’s holding tank. 


    After a few hours of net pulling, we transported the walleye back to holding tanks on a floating barge where the spawning process happens.  The fish are separated into male/female batches.  Next, the females are segregated into “ripe” and “not ripe” batches according to how ready they are to release their eggs.


    The ripe females are assisted by a firm, but careful, smooth squeezing process on their bellies (similar to a deep tissue massage) to release as many eggs as possible into a tub.  A similar process happens with the males to combine their sperm or “milt” with the eggs.  A clay-mud solution is prepared and added to the mixture to help prevent clumping and allow for efficient fertilization.  Each tub is carefully hand-stirred for 90 seconds with a goose feather to avoid damaging the eggs. 


    The spawning process is time sensitive.  If left too long, the eggs harden and clump together quickly; preventing fertilization.  To add to the time crunch, a released egg only accepts sperm for a limited time.  After fully mixed, the fertilized eggs are carefully rinsed to remove the mud and placed in a holding tank for a one-hour incubation period.  After incubation, the fertilized eggs are transported, in this case, to the CPW fish hatchery in Wray, CO. In the wild, the fertilized eggs normally land on rocks and incubate, but some reservoirs have more sand and silt furthering hindering success. 


    The spent walleye are then put in large holding tanks in the belly of the boat with flowing lake water until they can be individually measured, weighed, and scanned for fish PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags.  Fish that need tags are injected with a tiny PIT tag, similar to the microchips put in your cat or dog, and released back into the reservoir.  These tags allow for tracking and data collection each year. 


    Spawning lasts around 3-4 weeks with an average of 35 spawns per day. The statewide goal is to collect over 130 million eggs to spawn for re-populating the state’s lakes.   Spawning methods vary depending on species, location and conditions. CPW operates 19 fish hatcheries around the state.  If you are interested in volunteering for Walleye Spawn or another event, go to http://cpw.state.co.us/   and sign up as a volunteer.


    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.

  • 18 Apr 2018 1:10 PM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    The 2018 Annual Symposium was held on Friday, April 13th at the Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park. We are happy to announce that we had a great turnout of vendors and RMWQAA members alike. To “pregame” the event there were a number of people who showed up to stay at the hotel the night before the event. The hotel offered access to a game-room room furnished with multiple interactive games like pool, foosball, jumbo-jenga, and air-hockey. Those who rented a room the night before were able to socialize and enjoy the fun offerings that the Ridgeline presented.  


    On the morning of the event, everyone was able to check into the conference where they were provided a tasty breakfast offering various pastries, fruits, juices, and more. Additionally, the RMWQAA handed out free flash-drives this year as well as a limited number of RMWQAA water bottles. As attendees filtered into the beautiful conference hall, they encountered the traditional perimeter ring of our wonderful participating vendors who boasted their wares and services as well as a myriad of intriguing handouts and useful swag.

    With everyone seated, sipping coffees, and perusing the candies splayed out across their tables, we launched the conference with two complementary talks regarding corrosion control (Christina Ankrom; Parker W&SD) and treatment strategies (Jacqueline Rhoades; Hazen & Sawyer). These talks were followed up by a presentation from the always-informative David Dani (CDPHE) regarding turbidity BMPs and log inactivation data.

    At this point we took a break to visit with our vendor friends, nibble on fresh supplies of hummus and pita breads, and raffle off a few prizes to a few lucky attendees (I won a gift card to Old Chicago’s!). We returned to hear an interesting talk describing the process of Jar Testing with Organics monitoring from the soft-spoken Amanda Scott (Suez). To wrap up before our lunch break, Randi Brazeau from MSU gave us a glimpse into a number of studies her students are undertaking to review ecological impacts of the Gold King Mine Spill, now two years after the spill.

    After lunching on an Asian style lunch buffet followed by pies and cakes for dessert, we returned to the conference hall where we had our vendors to introduce themselves and their companies individually and raffle off a few lovely prizes, ranging from bottles of wine to gift cards to Rockies tickets. After the vendors made their announcements to the crowd we raffled off a few gifts of our own (including a pair of quirky periodic table socks), and then came time to announce the 2018 Analyst of the Year.

    It is with great pleasure that I announce that I, Zach Dahlgren, was humbled and grateful to receive this respected award and join the esteemed company of those who have won it before me. I want to give a shout out to Mike Schoenberg and Tyler Eldridge with the City of Greeley for nominating me, and I’d like  to thank the RMWQAA Board for selecting me as this year’s recipient as Analyst of the Year. Thank you all!

    As we neared the end of the Symposium, we held our Annual RMWQAA Business Meeting. At this time, we recapped the numerous social, educational, and informative events that the RMWQAA and Lab Practices Committee hosted over the last year. We also gave a look into upcoming opportunities for leisure and learning. Natalie Love ran through a number of accomplishments and tasks that the Education Sub-Committee is engaging, as well as a couple of announcements delving into a recently launched MDL Study and the anticipated development of the Exam Certification Board. More information on these topics will be delivered via email, or can be found follow their respective links.



    Finally, we were delighted to close out our symposium with an inspirational and passionate presentation regarding the 3s’ of Climate Change (Simple, Serious, Solvable) by the well-respected Scott Denning (CSU Atmospheric Sciences). As Scott wrapped up his riveting speech, we raffled off our grand prize, said our goodbyes, and dispersed back into the world.

    If you were unable to make this year’s Symposium, we encourage you to try to take time and attend next year’s conference. Details on the when and where of that event to come. Otherwise, check our events page for upcoming chances to learn, laugh, and be a lab nerd!

  • 03 Mar 2018 9:40 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    As water professionals, our passion for water began somewhere. In our busy careers we may forget that we are all in the water industry for the same reason: our passion for water; and someone, somewhere—whether we remember it or not— instilled in us this passion.


    In the K-12 school system, riddled with pressures of standardized tests and now safety concerns, students in the Denver Metro Region get to take a break and just enjoy science for one day. On February 16, 2018, upwards of 280 middle and high school students came together to showcase their science experiments at the annual Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair. More importantly, over 200 professionals volunteered at the Fair to encourage student’s passion for water. Water professionals served as judges to grant special awards to students ranging from scholarships, cash, and all-expense paid trips to national competitions. 

    This year at the Fair, students received over 10 water-related special awards. Top prizes and recognitions were awarded to students with innovative solutions to some of the nation’s toughest water issues. Examples of 2018 water-related award winners listed below demonstrates the complexity of projects showcased at the Fair.


    Award Winners:

    • Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association Award: Emma Schmit, 9th Grade, SkyView Academy: The Effects of Magnetism and Algae on Energy Output
    • Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association Award: Gitanjali Rao, 7th Grade, STEM School Highlands Ranch: Detection of Chemical Contaminants in Water using Carbon Nanotube Sensors
    • Stormwater Permittees for Local Awareness of Stream Health Award: Ester Mohamed, 8th Grade, Crescent View Academy: What do Humans do to Produce Algae?
    • Cherry Creek Basin Water Authority: Shreyas Sriram, 8th Grade, Challenge School: Using Artificial Intelligence And Raspberry Pi To Monitor And Conserve Household Water Usage
    • Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winners:

      --Zach Chapman, 10th Grade, Cherry Creek High School: Cost Effectiveness of Using Sn3O4 as a Water-Splitting Photocatalyst for Solar Energy Collection
      --Gabriel Lorenz, 9th Grade, SkyView Academy: Testing How Mangroves Grown in Sand, Silt, and Pebbles Stop Damage from Hurricane Waves 


    The future of water quality is apparent in these young scientists’ projects. It is important to foster young scientists’ passion for water because these students will be solving our upcoming water issues.

    To volunteer for upcoming Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association/Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association outreach and education events or to sponsor an award at the 2019 Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair contact Jojo La at msjojola@gmail.com.



    Jojo La is an environmental engineer in the fields of water resources planning and development, water quality, environmental permitting, regulatory compliance, and public policy issues related to water resources and the management of natural resources. She assists public and private sector clients with Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act compliance including discharge permits, water quality monitoring, 401 certifications, and Section 404 permits.

  • 11 Feb 2018 6:58 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Algae is the enemy and these two warriors have the tools and the talent to help the city tackle it. Laboratory Analysts Eric Scott and Trea Nance head out on Standley Lake about every two weeks to take measurements, check equipment, and investigate the water quality of Standley Lake and the creeks that flow into it.


    Standley Lake, the primary source of drinking water for the city, holds about 14 billion gallons of water, or a year’s supply of drinking water for the city.  With water constantly flowing in and out of the lake, the water quality needs to be checked almost constantly. Water quality data is transmitted via the anchored testing station, but Scott and Nance also head out on a pontoon boat and check the water themselves.


    "The testing station in the middle of the lake is constantly monitoring water quality levels,” said Scott. “However, we head out to get backup measurements and gather water samples for ourselves and other government entities.”


    Their primary tool for evaluating the lake water is an EXO2 Sonde. It has sensors that measure the cloudiness of the water (turbidity), salt and inorganic material content (conductivity), gaseous oxygen (dissolved oxygen) and algae content (chlorophyll). One Sonde is stationed at the anchored testing station and Scott brings another to check water quality measurements at certain depth intervals in the lake.


    “Algae is important in lakes because it adds oxygen to the water, however, too much algae creates an ‘algae bloom’ which we need to manage via our water treatment systems before it gets into the drinking water,” said Scott.


    The other tool they bring along on their trips is a Van Dorn water sampler.  The Van Dorn is a water bottle designed for sampling open water at a specific depth.


    “I drop the Van Dorn into the lake and lower it to our chosen depth,” said Nance. “When it’s where I want samples, I let go of the drop weight and it snaps shut, thus gathering water at say 20 meters.”


    The water is brought up and then portioned out into several sampling bottles for evaluation and dissemination to other cities who take drinking water from the lake, such as the city of Thornton.





    Another part of their jaunts into the lake is to check the Sonde and battery at the anchored station. They change out and recharge the battery every trip. They clean muck off the Sonde’s sensors…and clean off any bird poop or the remains of animals consumed by an eagle or owl left on the station.


    After getting back to the office, Scott and Nance work with water quality staff at Semper Water Treatment facility evaluating the data received from the Sonde and the Van Dorn.  Scott then sends out email to staff and interested parties detailing the results.


    Another fun part of the email that Scott sends out are photos he has taken out on the lake.  From panoramic scenic shots to up-close photos of geese and ducks, Scott has a photographer’s eye for capturing life out on Standley Lake.

    Westminster residents have some of the safest and best tasting water in the region and we have Scott, Nance and all the staff at Westminster’s Department of Public Works and Utilities.


    Jonathan Thornton is the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the City of Westminster

  • 05 Jan 2018 8:29 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    As part of ongoing biomonitoring, scientists from Metro Wastewater participate in an annual electrofishing program.  This monitoring program began in 1986 and there are currently thirteen sites spread over a forty-mile stretch of the South Platte River.  The same sites are sampled annually in the fall to compare historical data and change over time.  The main purpose of the program is to gather information on the species, size, quantity, weight, and health of the fish in Segment 15 of the South Platte River.  Various entities, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), use the data for river assessment studies, resegmentation, and habitat and aquatic life preservation projects.


    CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Commission sets regulations to control surface water quality.  Regulation 38 establishes classifications and numeric standards for four rivers including the South Platte River and its tributaries.  Each river segment is assigned a stream classification, which may contain up to four designated uses including Aquatic Life, Recreation, Water Supply, and Agriculture.  Each combination of designations comes with ranges and standards for temperature, nutrients, and other parameters designed to protect these uses and meet the goals of the Clean Water Act ensuring every river segment is fishable and swimmable.


    Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) does regular fish surveys in the upper South Platte River drainage around the same time.  CPW and Metro sometimes survey at different times of the year for a specific study or construction project.   The National Park Service in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service surveys National Parks (like RMNP) rivers and creeks every year as well. Consultants may be hired to conduct fish surveys when projects take place in or near a body of water, such a building a bridge over a river, or destroying a pond for a parking lot.  For example, GEI Consultants performs surveys for clients all over the Western US using bank shockers (like MWRD) and backpack shockers. Some dischargers in South Dakota and Idaho are required by their states to monitor the instream fish populations, so they monitor upstream and downstream for fish, bugs, and habitat. Some participating entities have long-term data sets for some rivers going back 20 years, which is valuable information when observing the transitions of fish populations over time through weather events and flood years. Graduate students and researchers may also perform fish surveys as needed.


    An electrofishing day begins by taking flow measurements.  The river flow must be below 300 cfs (cubic feet/second) on sampling days for safety concerns and accordingly, the flow is slow enough to successfully catch the fish once they are stunned.   Flags are placed along a 100-meter reach of the river to mark the sampling zone.  Two or three electrodes are connected together by power cords and held by members of the crew in the river.  These electrodes are on poles with a circular ring that is dipped into the water the entire time.  The electrodes are connected to a generator sitting in the back of a truck parked on the bank that is also attached to a cathode in the water to complete the circuit.  About 3-4 amps of alternating current hits the fish within about a 6-foot diameter area in the water.  The current temporarily paralyzes the fish much like a stun gun, thus making them easy to catch with nets.  Alternating current is used because it causes the least amount of harm to the fish and actually draws them towards the electrode so they do not float away too fast.  The amount of current will vary depending on the size of the river, flow, and conductivity levels of the water.


    Crewmembers wear waders to keep them dry and to separate themselves from the current in the water.  They should still use caution.  If the electrodes are in the water and an analyst touches the water directly, they get a shock.  Depending on their proximity to the electrode itself, they could feel as little as a slight tingle or as much as a good wake up jolt.  Serious damage could occur if the electrode was touched directly, but alternating current does offer some protection.  Analysts also watch for frogs, turtles, crawfish or other critters and try to remove them from the electrode path to save them the trauma of being unnecessarily shocked.


    The crew zigzags back and forth across the sample reach about 30 times to cover the entire area from bank to bank.  As fish are netted, they are taken to coolers of water on the banks while they recover and wait until the process is complete.  The cooler keeps the water temperature cool and closer to the temperature of their natural habitat.


    Once the shocking and collection process is complete, the counting begins.  The fish caught typically range in size from about an inch or two to a foot long, with an occasional larger fish.  Some sites have been known to house the occasional 2-foot long carp.  A total of 29 different fish species have been counted by Metro in the South Platte over the years including the typical yield of Fathead Minnow, White Sucker, Largemouth Bass, Johnny Darter, Green Sunfish, Longnose Dace, and Sand Shiner. Each fish is measured in millimeters on a fish board, weighed in grams, and identified per species.  Any unusual wellness indicators may also be noted during the counting process.  Then the fish go back into the river unharmed, although a little confused. (Similar to an alien abduction).  All the data is logged and compiled into a database for a variety of future uses.



    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.


  • 06 Dec 2017 9:12 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    When the leaves start turning colors in beautiful Colorado, it’s the signal of what is called the “shoulder” season. Shoulder season is that time when Summer and Winter vacation destination locations try to attract visitors, and offer discounted rates to convention organizers.  September and October are chalk full of industry conferences in Colorado and across the country.  This year was no exception.  I ended up crisscrossing the country for no less than 5 conferences in a period of 5 weeks.


    First up was the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association/Rocky Mountain Section of American Water Works Association Joint Annual Conference (now there’s a mouth full!) in Loveland, CO.  This year saw the largest attendance ever at a JAC.  For those that have never had the opportunity to attend before, it is a chance to meet industry professionals from throughout Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming in both the water and wastewater professions.  Operators, engineers, and of course laboratory professionals all gathered for 3 days and 165 technical sessions on that one thing that we all share a passion for; water, in all its glorious forms.  This year’s conference began with an exceptional Keynote talk by Charlie Lundquist, Deputy Manager of NASA’s Orion Program.  One of the highlights of every annual conference is the annual Toilet Trivia Bowl Contest, hosted by our very own Blair Corning (yes, once ours, always ours), otherwise known as SewerDude.  Topics covered such things as WTF, Rhymes with Water, and Movies about Water.  There was a fantastic track of Laboratory talks this year covering many aspects of the analytical lab.  They attracted standing room only crowds for many of the discussions.  Tuesday night was the awards dinner, where Ms. Natalie Love received the prestigious Water Environment Federation, Laboratory Professional Excellence Award.  Congratulations Natalie!  The award was well deserved, and thank you for all that you do for the Colorado lab community.


    Next was the Special Districts Association (SDA) Conference in Keystone.  A wonderful conference in the mountains of colorful Colorado during early Fall.  There is no more beautiful place to attend a 3 day gathering of Fire Protection, Parks & Rec, and Sanitation professionals.  There were numerous technical sessions on issues that are unique to special districts, in law, community relations, politics, and management.  All of the Keynote speakers were fantastic!  The running theme for each of their talks was valuing employees.  There was something to take home from each of the talks that can be applied in all of our jobs.  The most poignant for me this year though was “You have to be present to Win”.  You can’t just “mail it in” and hope for success.  You have to show up every day, be present, and participate, whether an Analyst or Manager, to reap the benefits of team success.


    WEFTEC, a gathering of over 22,000 leading professionals in the wastewater industry from around the world.   This year’s gathering occurred in Chicago in early October.  A very large conference by any standard.  So large it can only be held in cities that have very large convention centers.  Generally, WEFTEC alternates between Chicago and New Orleans.  There were over 500 technical sessions covering every conceivable wastewater topic.  The plethora of topics covering new and innovating technologies is mesmerizing.  I found myself being drawn to over 12 different technical sessions on peracetic acid disinfection alone.  Besides all of the tremendous talks, there were over 3.5 miles of vendor booths to see on the exhibition floor, which included many representing lab equipment, and in-line instrumentation.  An annual highlight is the OPS Challenge, where over 60 teams compete nationally for prestigious awards in 5 different categories, one of which is a laboratory event.  The teams practice all year long for this competition.  Colorado was well represented this with 2 teams from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and 1 team from Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Both Metro and L/E have been National champions in the past.  Some members of our organization have even competed on these teams.


    Off to LA.  So the forth conference wasn’t for work.  It was the 31st Annual National Hot Wheels Convention.  Yes, there really is one, and yes it really was the 31st annual.  There were over 1500 hobby enthusiasts in attendance.  I am not going to bore everyone with the rest of the details, except to say, find your passion and play hard!  Finding your balance outside of work allows one to grow in every aspect, the yin and yang of life.


    So to that end, I rented a sports car and drove down the coast to San Diego for the Association of Lab Managers (ALMA) conference.  This is a conference that I have not attended often.  When I had attended in the past, I found that most in attendance were from research and pharmaceutical labs.  I was pleasantly surprised this year.  Over half in attendance were from environmental labs.  It was a great opportunity to connect with colleagues facing similar issues and discuss new and innovative ways for managing today’s laboratory.  The focus being on managing our most valuable asset; people.  There were many half day seminars that provided refreshing ideas on managing the multi-generations that occupy today’s lab.  I highly recommend this conference to any lab supervisor that has a chance to attend in the future, but if you go, be sure to attend the workshops prior to the actual conference.


    Well that was my Fall.  I’m tired, and ready for a long Winter’s nap!  March and PittCon in Orlando will be here before you know it!



    Kevin Feeley, B.S. Biology, M.B.A, is the Chief of Analytical Services and has been employed with Metro Wastewater Reclamation District for 27 years. Mr. Feeley is the former Chair of the RMWEA Lab Practices Committee, a RMWQAA board participant, and on the Red Rocks Water Quality Program Advisory Board. Outside of the water and wastewater world, Kevin holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is the owner of 25,000+ Hot Wheels cars.

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