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  • 18 Jun 2024 6:55 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    The History around rain harvesting is rich with human ingenuity. Every culture has developed some method of capturing rainwater – from India, to Greece, to Machu Picchu, Peru. Rainwater collection systems have been as simple as a banana leaf to a coconut or as elaborate as an underground cistern network for an entire fort or town. The practice of harvesting rainwater dates back at least 3,000 years. History has finally caught up to Colorado. Colorado law makers legalized rain barrels on August 10th, 2016.  

    Colorado Rules help remind everyone that water is very precious in Colorado, and it is owned by users downstream. Rain that lands on a rooftop is a property right that is owned by someone downstream.  Every drop counts, and water rights holders depend upon the runoff from snowmelt and rainfall.

    The arid west is unique when it comes to managing water. The use of water is governed by what is known as the prior appropriation doctrine. This doctrine of water allocation controls who uses water, how much water may be used, the types of uses allowed, and when those waters can be used. Understanding the water laws can provide valuable insight into the way water is shared in Colorado.

    After a couple of attempts at the state capital, House Bill 16-1005 was passed in 2016.  It is now legal to capture rainwater at your house.  For rain barrels to be legal in Colorado, downstream water rights owners must still be able to use their water rights.  To guarantee that the captured rainwater will not change the flows in the river, there are a few guidelines that rain barrel owners must follow:

    • Anyone who lives in a house or townhouse with fewer than 4 units can use a rain barrel.
    • A maximum of two rain barrels can be used at each household, and the combined storage of the two rain barrels cannot exceed 110 gallons.
    • Rain barrels can only be used to capture rainwater from rooftop downspouts.
    • The captured rainwater must be used on the same property from which the rainwater was captured, for only outdoor purposes.
    • Rain barrel water cannot be used for drinking or other indoor water uses.
    • The captured rainwater can be used for watering lawns, plants, and/or gardens.
    • The capture and use of rainwater using rain barrels does not constitute a water right, and no permits are necessary.
    • If a water right holder can prove that rain barrels have impacted their ability to receive the water that they are entitled to, then the State Engineer can curtail the use of individual rain barrels.
    • Rain barrels need to be sealable to keep out mosquitos.
    • For people on well water, there is a different set of guidelines that include a need for a collection permit. Water can be used outdoors and indoors and match the well use, and they can collect as much water as they want. 
    • A homeowner’s association cannot ban the use of rain barrels; however, it can impose “reasonable” aesthetic requirements about the location and/or appearance of rain barrels.

    Good practices will prolong the life of your rain barrel system and save you time and money. Like any other household appliance, rain barrels need to be inspected and cared for. Here are some recommendations:

    • Rain barrels should be emptied periodically to clean out debris.
    • If you plan to be away from the home for more than a week, you should disconnect your rain barrel from the downspout. A thunderstorm can easily overfill your barrel.
    • Drain and disconnect during the winter. Water can freeze and crack your rain barrel. Don’t forget to adjust your gutter downspout so the water will run away from your house and not into a window well.
    • Shade or cover your barrel to avoid weathering from the sun. Plastic will eventually get brittle and crack if left in direct sunlight.
    • An overflow hose is a good idea. Have it drain at least 6 feet from the house.
    • There are various ways to build and connect your rain barrel and each will depend on the location of a drain and individual property.  A little bit of thought and planning will help you maximize your results.

    Are you Curious About How to Build, Install, and Maintain a Rain Barrel? 

    Below is a summary of helpful ideas and suggestions on how to have a successful rain barrel. 


    Colorado State Law (2016): Maximum of two 55-gal barrels, outdoor water use only, use at site where collected, no drinking, it is not a water right, avoid mosquitos. 

    Be Ready: 1 inch of rain on 1,000 sq. foot roof equals 600 gallons of water.  That is 12 barrels worth of water.  Rain barrels fill up very quickly. 

    Water Quality: Rain barrels are good for water conservation and also water quality. 

    Location:   A full rain barrel weighs close to 480 pounds.  Make sure it is in a safe location on level ground.  Know how much water comes down your downspout.  Decide if you want it invisible or visible, left/center/right of downspout, and if you want it on the north or south side of the building. 

    Materials:  Barrels can be plastic or steel and can be any size.  Conversion kits are available and easy to install but are not always the best choice.  It is good to use quality bulkhead tank fittings to attach drains, spigots, and other barrels.   

    Spigot:  Drill a hole the proper size about 3” from the bottom.  Use ¾” size parts, and the spigot should be a quarter turn spigot. 

    Inlet:  Drill/cut proper size on the side or top of barrel.  Good to put a cleanable screen on the inlet. 

    Overflow: Drill a proper size overflow hole.  Make sure it is lower than the inlet. 

    Install: Pick location and level the ground.  Use strong material to build the base.  Get the barrel into final position.  Have the spigot high enough for a bucket or hose to fit underneath.

    Connect to Downspout:  There are two kinds – Split-Flow and All-Flow.  Split-Flow is when you use a diverter.  They are good for handling high flows, have a built-in overflow by using the downspout, and can disconnect from your house.  Downside - Split-Flow diverters are harder to install, you don’t get all the water, they can leak, and they can clog more.  All-Flow is when you alter your downspout so that all the water goes to the barrel.  These are easier to install, clog less, divert more water, and are good for light rains.  Downside - All-Flow systems are permanent, you cannot turn them off, and you must build an overflow system. 

    Split-flow Diverters:  The ones that insert into the downspout are not the best because they clog and are not cleanable and overflow easily.  The “Y” diverter is a good one to use because it can be easily turned on and off.  There are others that flip down a spout but can be messier during big rains. 

    Annual Maintenance:  Protect the plastic barrel from the sun or it will get brittle and crack.  Drain and clean at least once a year.  For the winter, disconnect and drain so that it does not freeze. 

    Daily Maintenance: Check the volume in the barrel and drain it if a storm is coming. Clean the inlet screen of any gutter material.  Check for debris and leaks around the barrel.  Check the base to make sure it is still stable. 

    Safety:  To avoid mosquitos, keep it dry, keep the water moving, and keep it sealed.  You can use larvicides.  Make sure it is stable and keep the water away from your foundation. 

    Steve Lundt is a Senior Water Quality Scientist at Metro Water Recovery.  He has over 22 years of experience managing lakes and reservoirs in Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.  If you don’t find Steve on a boat working, you can find him on a bike path in Denver.

  • 22 May 2024 10:04 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    In light of the upcoming World Bee Day, celebrated on May 20th, I thought I would give a shout out to the bees, but also would like to give recognition to all the native pollinators of Colorado. Pollinator species include ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, birds, hummingbirds, and moths. A pollinator will move in an orderly fashion between flowers of the same plant species and gather pollen grains on their body which is then transferred from plant to plant resulting in cross-pollination. This is essential for plant reproduction and the production of most fruits and vegetables. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 80% of all flowering plants and over three-quarters of the staple crop plants rely on pollinators. However, this incredibly important species is facing various challenges such as habitat loss, misuse of pesticides, monocropping, pests, and disease. Given that May is a prime month for folks to begin planting and gardening, an important consideration is to plan a garden that is beneficial to pollinators. Pollinator habitats consist of a variety of flowering plants that provide nutrition and nesting space. These habitats can be big or small and consist of a variety of flowering plants that are attractive to both you and pollinators. An important factor to consider is to include a mixture of plant species that have bloom times ranging from early spring to late fall to provide pollen and nectar throughout the pollinator activity season. Other factors to be mindful of are providing flowers that are attractive to different species of pollinators. For example, bees prefer a broad range of plants and depending on the size of the bee, prefer larger or smaller flowers to be able to work more effectively. Even the structure of the flower can be more or less advantageous to different pollinator species. It is beneficial to plant in groups of flowers with similar structure rather than single plants scattered in the landscape.  Planting native flowering plants is cost effective, adapted to local soils and climate, and are usually the best sources of resources for pollinators. A list of flowers for all seasons can be found in the Colorado State University fact sheet: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/creating-pollinator-habitat-5-616/. For more information on the best practices to avoid and prevent impacts to pollinators, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has drafted a Pollinator Protection Plan containing guidelines in support of the health and proper management of pollinators and their habitats: https://ag.colorado.gov/plants/apiary-program-page/pollinator-protection.Ashley Romero is a Water Quality Scientist at GEI Consultants, Inc. and has a background in ecotoxicology.

    Image from Pixaby

    Ashley Romero is a Water Quality Scientist at GEI Consultants, Inc. and has a background in ecotoxicology.

  • 05 Apr 2024 9:12 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Does anyone besides me feel like there are new regulations flying at you and trying to keep up is just HARD? I thought maybe a summary of some of those I have on the radar might help someone.

    1. Lead or the LCRR and LCRI

    a. Acronym Definitions: Lead and Copper Rule Revisions, Lead and Copper Rule Improvements, GRR – Galvanized Requiring Replacement

    b. The most important thing about complying with this rule right now is that systems must complete their inventory by October 16, 2024. However, the word “complete” is a misnomer. I have been using the word “refining” rather than completing. If you can report that you have no lead that’s awesome and you should go ahead and get that form submitted to the state. If you have or suspect or have no idea if you have lead then everything is considered an “unknown”. You can report your lead, galvanized requiring replacement and unknowns and keep working on identifying the unknowns. The trick will be, once the LCRI is in effect (on Oct 16th), the unknowns get counted in your placement requirement which will be 10% of your inventory. We will need to report another inventory number sometime after 2027 so there’s time to refine your inventory. Once you do the report to the state you have to notify everyone with lead, GRR and unknowns within 30 days.

    c. After the rule in in effect, everyone will have to sample schools and daycares – even if you don’t have lead. The state did some sampling and we probably won’t have to re-sample those schools. A good starting point would be to build our list of schools, but I wouldn’t sample just yet because daycares and schools could change before LCRI takes effect after 2027.

    d. There’s tons more to this rule, if you have questions, call! The state is also able to help!

    2. PFAS

    a. I heard recently the final rule should be out by April 8th.

    b. This is the draft proposed to regulate PFOS and PFOA at 4 PPT and there are four other compounds which will use a new concept for drinking water of how the Hazard Index is calculated.

    c. The drinking water rule could have ramifications for discharge permits. I expect they will use the drinking water MCLs to decide permit limits for discharges.

    3. Dredge and Fill

    a. This work seeks to protect the waters that the current WOTUS ruling does not. There are two bills working through the legislature and if you want more information, let me know.

    • HB24-1379 - this bill will require CDPHE to set up the entire program of 404 permitting.
    • SB24-127 - this bill sets up the program in the department of natural resources and will provide protection for the gap waters (ephemeral streams and wetlands).

    4. COG641000 Water Treatment Plant Wastewater Discharge Permit Renewal

    • If you have a general permit to discharge from your treatment plant, it might be changing. This does not impact individual permits. I do not know where the state landed on this as it has been a while since the meetings were held and the meeting this week is said to be the final stakeholder meeting.

    a. The last stakeholder meeting was Apr 2nd and I can give people an overview later if they are interested. As I am writing this, the meeting has not been held.

    5. Reg 100 Mandatory Regulatory Training (MRT) and TU matrix

    a. There is supposed to be a stakeholder process to update the TU matrix which could impact operators holding certifications throughout the state. I have not seen any announcements but, please get involved.

    b. A workgroup has been working to refine the MRT class. The Reg 100 board will have a stakeholder process to finish this work. Operators are encouraged to represent themselves in this process.

    Sherry Scaggiari is the Environmental Compliance Principal at the City of Aurora. Sherry has a chemistry degree from CSU and made her start in environmental contract labs over 30 years ago. She has worked for the city of Aurora for 16 years. She is responsible for compliance for Aurora Water including supervising the MS4 inspections group, Environmental compliance and the Quality Control Laboratory.

  • 12 Mar 2024 10:41 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Coming up with a topic to write about was harder than expected. Shouldn’t it be easy to think of a topic related to what we spend about 25% of our week focused on? We started reading through old blog posts to get some ideas and stumbled upon one written about Earth Day from a couple of years ago. We started googling holidays in March that could be beneficial to write about and it just so happens that World Water Day is coming up! Water Day sounded familiar, but we honestly could not tell you what day it was on. (For anyone else who’s like us, it’s on March 22nd). So, with all of that being said, we present to you some background on World Water Day and a list of 5 ways we can honor it on March 22nd.

    World Water Day is an annual United Nations Observance that has been held on March 22nd since 1993. Its purpose is to celebrate water and inspire action to tackle the global water crisis. The United Nations has a total of 17 sustainable development goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Goal 6 is directly correlated to World Water Day. This goal hopes to ensure access to water and sanitation for all by the year 2030. We only have 6 more years to make this goal happen and we are still far from it. The UN website describes the progress like this, “Despite great progress, billions of people still lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Achieving universal coverage by 2030 will require a substantial increase in current global rates of progress: sixfold for drinking water, fivefold for sanitation and threefold for hygiene.”

    The 2024 theme of World Water Day is Water for Peace. The key messages listed on un.org are:

    • Water can create peace or spark conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people struggle for access, tensions can rise. By cooperating on water, we can balance everyone’s water needs and help stabilize the world.
    • Prosperity and peace rely on water. As nations manage climate change, mass migration and political unrest, they must put water cooperation at the heart of their plans.
    • Water can lead us out of crisis. We can foster harmony between communities and countries by uniting around the fair and sustainable use of water – from United Nations conventions at the international level, to actions at the local level.

    Here are some easy, sustainable options for you to do and encourage others to participate in to support World Water Day:

    1. Consider switching to laundry detergent sheets. Look for brands that are plant-based and do not contain phosphates, surfactants, dyes, formaldehyde, or brighteners. These detergent sheets do not damage ecosystems like traditional detergents do.
    2. Consider switching to a metal/glass water bottle. These reusable water bottles reduce waste and minimize the release of micro plastics and other harmful contaminants like pfas into our water.
    3. Use a Dishwasher. Washing dishes by hand uses 7x more water than using a modern dishwasher.
    4. Eat locally. Support local farmers who use water-efficient irrigation methods and promote organic farming practices that minimize water pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.
    5. Plant Trees and Native Plants Trees and native vegetation help prevent soil erosion, recharge groundwater, and improve water quality. Encourage others to participate in tree planting and native plant restoration projects.

    As we go back to our daily routines here in Colorado, we hope you remember World Water Day 2024 and its theme of peace. As a state we are lucky to have access to such amazing facilities that provide us with clean water, and we should remember that this is not the case for many. By adjusting how we think of using this precious resource and embracing simple yet impactful actions such as reducing water waste and supporting clean water initiatives, we are not only safeguarding our way of life but also fostering peace and equity among communities. We hope you will join us in committing to spreading awareness, engaging in sustainable practices, and educating others about the importance of water conservation. 





    Haley West (Senior Laboratory Manager) and Catherine McDonald (Laboratory Manager) work at SeaCrest Group, where they focus on conducting Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) tests and culturing Ceriodaphnia dubia and fathead minnow.

  • 18 Feb 2024 3:43 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    In the lab, we strive for 100% every single day. We want everything to be exactly by the method, documented, within specs… we aim for perfection. And that’s fantastic. But that’s not how real life always works. Sometimes stuff goes wrong, or at least partially not right.

    There is biology in our analytical lab. Personally, the most challenging tests for my program are WET, E. coli, and BOD - at times, these tests drive me insane. They are biological! It doesn’t always go perfectly in the analytical realm- throw in some biology and good luck! But we are all biology. We are human. We have off days and make mistakes. And it’s ok to be human.

    Even analytical requirements have error built in. Known standards need to be within 90-110% to be considered acceptable. Heck, some of the more wobbly tests even stretch to 70-130% acceptability limits. So, why don’t we give ourselves similar margins of error? Why do we understand that analytical tests have a small range of error but do not grant ourselves the same grace?

    Perfection is tough under optimal conditions. But we all face challenges - aging equipment, juggling multiple priorities, short on staff and budgets, lower and lower detection limits, etc. Yet we still want to be perfect. It’s ingrained in our analytical brains - everything has a set procedure, we can’t deviate, and we know there is a precise right answer. We always seek that 100% recovery, perfect slope, and not missing anything. This degree of perfectionism has an important role in the lab. But it can also make us crazy.

    Even in the lab, it’s not always black and white. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trying to find out the answer to my question only to determine that it is a grey area and up to some level of interpretation. Who would have thought there was art to our science?! And the further we dig in, the more complicated it gets. We are juggling priorities and facing difficult questions where sometimes we must choose the lesser evil. We do the best we can with the resources we have. Personally, I used to think that I’d have it figured out by this point in my life. But the truth is - if we keep advancing and taking on bigger challenges, it never gets any easier. The questions and challenges just keep getting harder. And I think most of us would be bored if they weren’t. But the fact remains- we keep raising that bar.

    It’s great to strive for perfection and I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t. But it’s also important to know when good enough is good enough. I’m not saying to cut corners or to lower the bar. But we are human and can only do our best. I’ve noticed that people who are drawn to the lab often have an analytical mindset that is such an advantage. But if you are one of those people who wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about something in the lab, can’t turn off during vacation, or stress about the increasing cost of service contracts or how you’re going to attract or retain top notch chemists - I implore you to reevaluate where you’re putting your energy. When we set our sights on perfection, we don’t give ourselves credit for all the amazing things that we ARE accomplishing. Like anything, it’s a balance, right? Continual improvement is a good goal but not at the cost of undervaluing all the stuff that we get right every single day. Sometimes, instead of stressing about hold times, sig figs, and whether we remembered to pH-adjust that buffer - our energy is better spent on nominating a colleague for recognition on a special project, chatting with Operations about upcoming data needs, or just taking a moment to appreciate how much our labs and teams accomplish every single day. We do great work. Take the time to give yourself a pat on the back.

    Melissa Mimna is Laboratory Manager for the City of Boulder Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) where she has worked in the WRRF Lab for the past 12 years.

  • 31 Jan 2024 7:12 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    As we bid farewell to one year and welcome another, it's an opportune time to reflect on our habits and consider making positive changes for the future. One crucial aspect that often escapes our resolution lists is water usage. With water scarcity becoming an increasingly prevalent issue, setting resolutions for sustainable water practices is not only responsible but essential. Let's dive into some meaningful New Year resolutions that can help us become more conscious and responsible stewards of this precious resource.

    Conserve Water at Home:

    The first step toward sustainable water usage begins at home. Make it a resolution to fix any leaks, install water-efficient appliances, and be mindful of water consumption during daily activities such as showering, dishwashing, and laundry. Simple adjustments like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or fixing a dripping faucet can collectively make a significant impact.

    Adopt Xeriscaping Practices:

    In our water scarce region, xeriscaping – a landscaping method that promotes water conservation – can be a game-changer. Resolve to redesign your outdoor spaces with native, drought-resistant plants that require less water. This not only contributes to water conservation but also adds a touch of local beauty to your surroundings.

    The Colorado State University Extension is a valuable resource for information on xeriscaping. They often provide guides, articles, and workshops on water-wise landscaping practices suitable for Colorado's climate. Visit their website or contact the local extension office for specific resources.

    Rainwater Harvesting Goals:

    Consider making 2024 the year you start harvesting rainwater. Collecting rainwater can significantly reduce reliance on traditional water sources for activities like gardening and watering plants. Invest in a rain barrel or explore more elaborate rainwater harvesting systems depending on your needs and the local regulations. The Colorado State University Extension is again a great resource for those looking for guidance.

    Educate Yourself and Others:

    Resolve to learn more about the water situation in your region. Understand where your water comes from, how it's treated, and the challenges it faces. Share this knowledge with friends and family, raising awareness about the importance of sustainable water usage. The more people are informed, the more likely they are to adopt water-saving habits.

    This month, the third Climate Change in Colorado report was released. Created by researchers at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, the report has valuable insights for water providers and planners regarding temperature increases, runoff effects, and precipitation. Read CSU’s press release here for highlights. There’s also a nice summary from Heather Sackett writing for Aspen Journalism.

    As we embark on a new year, let's make a splash with resolutions that go beyond personal betterment, extending to the well-being of our planet. Sustainable water usage is not just an environmental responsibility; it's a necessity for the survival of our communities and ecosystems. By adopting these resolutions, you become an integral part of the solution, contributing to a more water-conscious and sustainable future. Cheers to a year filled with positive change and mindful water stewardship!

    Danny McCausland is a Senior Water Quality Analyst with the City of Thornton. He has 10 years working in the water quality field.
  • 15 Dec 2023 2:12 PM | Lindie Aragon (Administrator)

    The holiday season is FULL of stress. So many things to get done with less daylight than you need. Money is tight, the anxiety of gift selections is at an all-time max, wrapping is difficult and looks nothing like the one you pinned on Pinterest, family is determined to throw consecutive shindigs, you drank to much at your company party, the list goes on and on!

    Instead of writing a blog that is informative, educational, or beneficial, I decided to take the time to gather some jokes. Hoping at least one makes you smile and escape from the craziness for just a moment. Even with the pressure and madness, I truly hope each and every person reading this has an amazing holiday doing what you love most! Cheers to 2023 and cannot wait to see you in the New Year!

    What do you call it when a guy throws his laptop into the ocean?

    Adele, Rollin’ in the Deep.

    H20 is water, but what is H204?

    It’s for swimming and drinking, of course.

    There are two reasons why you should never drink toilet water.

    Number one. And number two.

    How do you know if an ant is a boy or a girl?

    If you toss it in the water and it sinks, it’s a girl. If the ant floats, it’s a buoyant.

    Why do scuba divers fall backwards into the water?

    Because if they fell forwards, they would still be in the boat.

    My friend keeps saying “Cheer up man it could be worse, you could be stuck underground in a hole full of water.”

    I know he means well.

    Just opened my water bill and my electricity bill at the same time…

    I was shocked.

    What did the river say when it saw beavers for the first time?

    “Well, I’ll be dammed.”

    How do you find Will Smith in a snowstorm?

    Look for Fresh Prints!

    What did one snowman say to the other?

    Do you smell carrots?

  • 16 Nov 2023 4:23 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    This month many of us will gather with friends and family and give thanks for the things that we are thankful for – our family, friends, a roof over our heads or the wonderful meals before us. But one of the most important things that many of us are grateful for is often overlooked and never mentioned at Thanksgiving dinner…water. It is something that is a part of everyone’s daily lives and is often taken for granted. For most people in the US, we don’t have to worry whether the water we get from the tap is clean or where the water goes when we flush our toilet.

    Water is the core of all the things that we are thankful for daily. It allows us to cook our food, keeps our bodies nourished, keeps our environment clean. The list of reasons to be thankful for water can go on and on but at its core, water is essential for life and something that I know I am very grateful for. I personally have been fortunate enough to work in water quality for my professional career and had the privilege of working with many great people who dedicated their lives to providing our communities with clean water. From the treatment of wastewater to the distribution of safe drinking water, we have a great community that keeps water flowing through our daily lives.

    As we gather this Thanksgiving let us be reminded of the things that are sometimes overlooked in our daily lives such as clean water and the people who put in the hard work to provide us this resource. Water is the core of life, and it is important that we continue to make improvements to water infrastructure and work on providing safe water to those communities who may not have access to clean water as many of us do.

    Michael Hendricks is a Water Quality Senior Technician for Denver Water

  • 26 Oct 2023 6:55 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    For many in the wastewater industry, the association with autumn and conferences comes naturally. The Rocky Mountain Water Conference (RMWC) occurs in September and WEFTEC takes place at the beginning of October. This was my first year participating in back-to-back wastewater conferences in less than one month. While both conferences lived up to the hype with all the free drinks (and interesting talks) it got me thinking about the collective experience at one of those conferences. I estimate there was roughly 7,500 years of knowledge at the RMWC alone.

    In this vein, I was hoping to exploit my friend Blair Corning and his vast experience. Blair is currently the Deputy Director of Environmental Programs at South Platte Renew and was my boss at South Adams County Water and Sanitation District (SACWSD) in my first stint in wastewater. Blair was the reason I got involved in the RMWQAA and I’m reaching out to him to share his perspective. We’ll start out with a standard, base-level interview question. How did you get involved in the wastewater field….is it something you knew you wanted to do your whole life?

    I didn’t even think about being in water treatment when I was young. I wanted to be a veterinarian in high school and college. No one ever tells you about water and wastewater when you’re young and if they do it’s certainly not sexy enough to think about. Until you realize benefits and job stability and steady exciting work helping the community is sexy too. I got in when I applied for a job as a way to run from the USDA. I was a food safety inspector there, which meant long hours on a giant assembly line cutting into cow parts. Two years is all I could handle and fortunately I found my first job in water at SACWSD. 


    I never thought I’d hear the words “sexy” and “cow parts” in that close of proximity to each other. Thank you for that. What was your trajectory from there? What did you start out doing at SACWSD and how did you get to where you are now?

    I started as an environmental “technician”. I worked in the water lab, wastewater lab, and industrial pretreatment all at once. It was a new position that had been created and looking back it was the best job ever for seeing everything about the water business. I am currently a Deputy Director at South Platte Renew. I got there by being patient, learning all I could in every job, and never saying no or I’m too busy to do that. 


    I like that….never saying no is a very consulting mindset to have, but it really takes you far because you never stop learning. What has been your favorite job/role over the years?

    I’ve loved them all. The lab is great because you get a result and it’s real and it’s done and you feel good. The further you get from the bench, the more things seem to be less concrete. My favorite role though is my current position. The other day I was on a boat in Barr Lake in the morning looking at lake monitoring probes and in a Denver high rise in the afternoon talking about the facility master plan. It reinforced to me that I have the best job in the world. 

    Variety is great! And the boat sounds so awesome! Especially with this amazing fall weather we have been having. Name one lab-related challenge you faced in your career and how you overcame it.

    The one I can think of is operating the lab during a remodel. Imagine the effects of dust and vibration and construction on a TSS test. We set up quarters in a tent in the garage and did the best we could. It was a lesson in no whining. We got it done and met permit requirements. 

    I remember that remodel! The best thing about it was not having to wash BOD bottles. You let us splurge on the disposable bottles. But that was really the only good thing about it. You have done so many cool things in your free time….writing, comedy, and now your podcast. How did the podcast come about?

    When I switched jobs and started at South Platte Renew my commute lengthened (I live in Arvada). I started listening to podcasts on the way to and from work. I looked for Colorado Water podcasts but didn’t find too many. Then of course I thought “I could do that” and went about figuring out how to do it. It’s fun. I love interviewing different guests and talking water. It’s therapeutic. Which is good because therapy ain’t cheap. If any lab folks want to be on the podcast I’d love to do an episode on the laboratory side of water and wastewater. 

    If any of our readers are interested, you can shoot Blair a message at: bcorning@englewoodco.gov. Be sure to follow the Streaming Water Podcast….there are some really awesome episodes. My favorite is Season 3, Episode 4, Airborne Snow Measurement with Taylor Winchell and Jeff Deems. I learned some awesome stuff about snowpack in Colorado. Tell the readers about how you first came across the RMWQAA and about your involvement in the group when you joined.

    I got involved because of Joan Chavez, my wastewater lab supervisor. She had been in the group and encouraged me to get involved and introduced me to some members. I’m glad she did that because it is just what I needed at that time. I was new to the industry and didn’t know what I knew or didn’t know so it really helped having some lab friends. Joan was unselfish and wanted to build people up. It was something I tried to carry on. 

    You carried that on by doing the same for me when I was in your lab! I joined in 2005 and I met so many awesome people, many of whom I’m still friends with today. What advice do you have for someone just starting out in the wastewater industry, besides getting involved in a professional organization? That’s always my number one piece of advice since it helped me so much in my career.

    My biggest piece of advice is Give the people what they want. It’s that simple. Whether it’s your boss, your board, the public, etc., just give them what they want. I spent years giving people what I thought they should want or I wanted them to want but when I learned to understand what they wanted everything became easier. 

    That’s some really sound advice Blair. Thanks so much for taking part in this interview!! To wrap it up, if you could choose one song to play every time you walked into a room, what would you choose and why?

    This one is easy. There’s a dive bar by my house and before I go in I play Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille on TouchTunes. I did this for two years before they finally made the Pavlovian connection that when that song came on - I walked in. It was a bonus because this is a metal, Creedence, Lynard Skynard type place, so Muskrat Love totally disrupts everything. That’s the beauty of it. 

    Ha!! That’s amazing….you legit have a walk-in song!! Love it. Thanks Blair!

    Natalie Love is the Laboratory Research Manager at Metro Water Recovery and has not been in the industry as long as Blair but agrees with all his great advice. 
  • 26 Sep 2023 6:53 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Whether you need an essay for school, to compose an e-mail to your workgroup, or even a personal assistant, there is an easy to use AI platform waiting to assist.  Although AI may be too easy to use. Anyone with a pc and an internet connection can use and program an AI platform to perform any number of tasks, no coding or programming experience necessary. 

    This year the use of AI has surged as never before.  The response to this utilization of AI technology spans the full gambit of those who say, “Wait, remember Skynet?” to those who say, “It’s about time I’m all in, 100%.”  No matter where you stand on the issue AI is not going away. 

    Historically the scientific community has enthusiastically embraced new technology and this is true for laboratories today.  However, many in the scientific community are divided. Some say the brakes need to be applied to slow the process to evaluate and govern what can be done.  Others encourage free experimentation, insisting we will get the best results by letting AI work unrestricted.  

    This has raised some very important questions:

    What about the ethics of AI?  What ethical guidelines have been established for the use of AI in scientific laboratories?  Since AI changes so rapidly, how can any guidelines be kept current as it advances?

    AI has been used to speed up research and productivity in labs.  Machine learning has reportedly contributed to the approval of certain vaccines faster than previously achievable.  The advantages seem to be endless.  The potential for advancement seems to be endless, but is the potential risk just as high?

    The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, (AAAI) and other agencies have called for the need to implement some sort of modified Hippocratic Oath “First, do no harm”.  What if the humans utilizing the AI are unethical and use the platforms in a questionable way?  Yes, we all have heard of the lab analyst or operator that was terminated because they “dry labbed” the numbers.  Or the lab managers that have ordered results be thrown out or not reported because they violated a DMR or permit. 

    Most of us in the RMWQAA do not work in pharmaceutical and medical research labs, but the water and wastewater world could be affected as well.  Method detection limits (MDLs) and maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) are continuously being lowered.  Could the pressure to keep up with new guidelines and regulations cause the manufacturers of instruments and method developers to look to AI for solutions?  Will the technology adhere to industry standards of ethics and work?  Only time will reveal the answers to these and other questions.

    Just for fun, I asked a popular platform the following question:

    How can we meet new EPA MDL requirements for water analysis?

    Here is the lengthy answer I received (Spoiler Alert: Nothing groundbreaking was revealed but AI did not recommend using AI):

    Meeting the new Minimum Detectable Level (MDL) requirements for water analysis set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be challenging but is crucial for ensuring the accuracy and reliability of water quality data. Here are steps and strategies to help you meet these requirements:

    1.    Understand EPA MDL Requirements: Familiarize yourself with the specific MDL requirements outlined in EPA methods relevant to your water analysis. These requirements can vary depending on the method and the analyte being measured.

    2.    Select Appropriate Analytical Techniques: Choose analytical techniques and instruments that are capable of achieving the desired MDLs. This might involve using more sensitive equipment or methods, such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), or inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

    3.    Calibration and Quality Control: Ensure that your laboratory's calibration procedures are accurate and precise. Regularly calibrate instruments and verify their performance using certified standards. Implement stringent quality control procedures to monitor and maintain instrument performance.

    4.    Sample Collection and Preservation: Proper sample collection and preservation are critical to obtaining accurate results. Follow EPA-prescribed procedures for sample collection, storage, and transportation to prevent contamination and degradation.

    5.    Method Validation: Validate your chosen analytical method to demonstrate its accuracy, precision, and reliability. This typically involves running known standards and spiked samples to assess the method's performance.

    6.    Instrument Maintenance and Upkeep: Regularly maintain and service your analytical instruments to ensure they operate at peak efficiency. Any equipment malfunction or deterioration can negatively impact MDLs.

    7.    Staff Training and Competency: Ensure that your laboratory staff is well-trained and competent in the specific analytical methods they are using. Continuous training and skill development are essential.

    8.    Use Certified Reference Materials (CRMs): Incorporate CRMs into your analysis process to verify the accuracy of your results. CRMs are standardized materials with known concentrations of target analytes.

    9.    Blank and Matrix Spike Analysis: Include blank samples and matrix spike samples in your analysis to assess and correct for background contamination and matrix effects.

    10. Data Quality Assessment: Regularly review and assess data quality. Identify and investigate outliers or unusual results promptly. Document all quality control measures and data quality assessments.

    11. Participate in Proficiency Testing Programs: Enroll in proficiency testing programs or inter-laboratory comparison studies to evaluate your laboratory's performance against other laboratories. This can help identify areas for improvement.

    12. Documentation and Reporting: Maintain thorough documentation of all procedures, methods, and quality control measures. Report your results accurately, including MDLs, in compliance with EPA guidelines.

    13. Stay Updated: Keep abreast of changes in EPA methods and requirements. The EPA periodically updates its methods and regulations, so it's important to stay informed and adapt accordingly.

    Meeting EPA MDL requirements for water analysis demands a commitment to high-quality analytical practices, rigorous quality control, and ongoing training and improvement. It's essential to ensure the accuracy and reliability of water quality data, which is vital for environmental protection and public health.

    Adele Rucker is the RMWQAA President and an Analytical Chemist in South Platte Renew’s Laboratory. 

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