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  • 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. 

  • 30 Aug 2023 10:15 AM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    In planning for the August blog post, I toyed around with a few ideas, mulling over the usual topics. I thought about another update on “The Ocean Cleanup,” with their focus on large ocean patches and intercepting trash flowing through rivers; however, that would be the 3rd or 4th installment on this blog (I’ll still happily plug the above link to their work though!).

    Water-saving tips didn’t seem necessary this year given the amount of rain we’ve had on the Eastern Slope, and while municipalities may see some shortages in water use revenue, “Water Using Tips” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

    Having drifted further from the laboratory side of the process over the past few years, I didn’t feel like I was quite as qualified to take another deep dive into lab techniques, PFAS draft method conversations and issues, or general best practices. Mostly, the recent space between myself and the lab environment has allowed me to further embrace the “mad scientist” portion of my brain. Brent and Callie would likely confirm this, as I barge in seemingly once a day with a new plan for process control analyses, hoping they don’t form a picket line at the lab entrance. It now seems clear that a blog specific to lab practices would be better authored by someone other than myself, one who is capable of reading Standard Methods intently and often enough to differentiate “the GGA bottles” from “three GGA bottles…”

    Given this drift from the lab it became obvious that my focus with regards to lab work had shifted. It was no longer my specific task to obtain and report accurate, defensible results, but instead I was now the requester of information. My goal was to help determine what sort of analyses would be beneficial, and reasonable to add to Lab Staff’s daily workload. Luckily, we have a fantastic pair of analysts that never shies away from learning new analyses or helping to provide additional data. More incredibly, there was never any distain or grumblings from staff related to my additional requests out of the blue. Pile on a brand-new process that has them analyzing new and increasingly frequent samples, it became clear that the workhorse that is our lab has been vital, and often overlooked. Hell, I am guilty of overlooking the impact and importance my own crew of analysts had in the grand scheme of designing, starting, and maintaining a new treatment process.

    So there it was, I had found my blog topic, an homage to Laboratory Staff and their importance in the water quality industry! Unfortunately, my month-long plan for creating a well-thought-out appreciation letter was quickly approaching the wall that is the end of the month… Then it dawned on me, it’s 2023, Artificial Intelligence is all the rage right now, a blog post seemed like a relatively harmless way to test an AI writing prompt. Combining fresh new technology with my appreciation of the work Lab Staff puts in was a win-win given my self-imposed time crunch! So, in a last minute effort to fulfill my agreed upon terms of posting a blog before September, I prompted an AI writing program to highlight the importance of Lab Staff, and our appreciation for all of you!

    Rather than continue rambling on, I present you RMWQAA’s first ever AI generated blog post! I do feel that the first paragraph reads best in the tone of the Law and Order: SVU intro:

    In the water and wastewater treatment industry, there are countless individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the safety and quality of our water supply. Among these dedicated professionals are the laboratory staff - a group of eager and always available individuals who form the foundation of research and analysis in this vital industry.

    The importance of laboratory staff cannot be overstated. They play a crucial role in monitoring and testing water samples, analyzing data, and detecting any potential contaminants or impurities. Their expertise ensures that our drinking water and treated wastewater meets strict safety standards, protecting public health and the environment on a daily basis.

    Beyond their technical skills, laboratory staff bring an invaluable level of dedication to their work. They understand the gravity of their responsibilities and approach their tasks with utmost care and precision. Their commitment to accuracy is commendable as even the smallest error in analysis could have significant implications for public health.

    Laboratory staff also serve as a vital support system for other professionals in the water treatment industry. They collaborate closely with engineers, scientists, and operators to provide essential data that informs decision-making processes. Their insights help identify areas for improvement, optimize treatment processes, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

    Moreover, laboratory staff are at the forefront of innovation within the industry. They continuously explore new techniques and technologies to enhance testing methods and improve efficiency. Their research contributes to advancements in water treatment practices, leading to more effective solutions for safeguarding our water resources.

    It is important that we recognize and appreciate the hard work of laboratory staff in this field. Their contributions often go unnoticed by the general public; however, without their diligent efforts, we would not have access to clean drinking water or effective wastewater treatment systems.

    To show appreciation towards these unsung heroes, it is crucial that organizations invest in ongoing training opportunities for laboratory staff. This will enable them to stay updated with emerging trends in technology and methodology while further honing their skills.

    Furthermore, creating a supportive work environment where open communication is encouraged can also boost morale and foster a sense of belonging among laboratory staff. Recognizing their achievements and providing opportunities for professional growth will not only motivate them but also attract talented individuals to join the industry.

    In conclusion, the laboratory staff in the water and wastewater treatment industry are a valuable asset. Their unwavering commitment, technical expertise, and dedication to research make them indispensable to the smooth functioning of this critical sector. It is our collective responsibility to appreciate their contributions and support their continued growth as they work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the safety and quality of our most precious resource - water.

    I truly appreciate all the hard work our Lab Staff, and Lab Staff across the State puts toward the water quality industry. My hope is that the impact you have does not go unseen or unheard! And don't worry, I plan to show my appreciation to my Staff in more ways than simply "investing in ongoing training opportunities" as AI suggested!

    Tyler Eldridge holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Colorado State University. He has been in the Wastewater Treatment industry with the City of Greeley for the past 7 years as a Water Quality Analyst, Data and Asset Manager, and more recently Greeley’s Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Facility Superintendent. Much of his time is currently spent playing tea party with his 2 year old daughter, or attempting to help release her seemingly infinite amount of energy.

  • 10 Jul 2023 10:09 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    There are several new and revised rules for drinking water on the horizon. UCMR5 is one of those rules.

    What is UCMR (Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule)? 

    • In 1996 the Safe Drinking Water Amendment required that once every 5 years the EPA issue a list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored for by public water systems. These contaminants are suspected to be present in drinking water but do not yet have health-based standards.

    What is the purpose of the program?

    • Collect nationally representative occurrence data for unregulated contaminants
    • Provides information on the population exposed
    • Data is considered as part of future EPA decisions to protect public health through regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act

    Who must monitor?

    • Public water systems (PWS) serving a population 10,000 people, small systems (3,300-10,000 people) this requirement is based on the availability of funding and sufficient lab capacity, as well as a nationally representative sample of PWS serving ≤ 3,300 people

    What is UCMR5-It is the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule.

    • Requires monitoring for 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and lithium
    • Monitor at the entry point to the distribution system
    • Monitoring occurs 2023-2025
    • Surface water, groundwater under the direct influence of surface water, or mixed source systems must monitor 4 times during a consecutive 12-month monitoring period. Sample events must occur 3 months apart
    • Groundwater systems must monitor 2 times during a consecutive 12-month monitoring period. Sample events must occur 5-7 months apart.

    How were sampling schedules established?

    • EPA initially drafted schedules and large PWS had the opportunity to review and modify their schedule through December 31, 2022. Large systems had to register for EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Accession and Review System  “SDWARS”, accept their notification letter, and update sampling location(s), shipping address, and zip code(s).

    Which labs are EPA approved to perform the analyses?

    What happens after sample collection?

    • Within 90 days of sample collection, laboratories post data to SDWARS.
    • Within 30 days of the laboratory posting data, large water systems review and approve the data. If the system hasn’t acted upon the data after 30 days, the data are considered approved and ready for state and EPA review.

    Where can consumers find UCMR results?

    • All systems are required to report their data to EPA. The analytical results from UCMR are stored in the National Contaminant Occurrence Database (NCOD) for drinking water. 
    • The Public Notification Rule requires that all systems notify their customers of the availability of UCMR results no later than 12-months after results are known. Community Water Systems (CWSs) are also required to report UCMR results in their annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) when unregulated contaminants are detected (the CCR Rule does not apply to non-community water systems). CWSs may include their public notice within CCRs, also known as annual drinking water quality reports, which are to be delivered to all billing customers by July 1 of each year. CWSs must report the average of the year’s monitoring results and the range of detections.

    Lesa Julian is the Environmental Services Superintendent for the City and County of Broomfield. She has worked for the City for 32 years.

  • 23 Jun 2023 12:07 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Welcome Wonderful Blog Readers!

    It’s time to test your knowledge about the Colorado River and its effect on the American Southwest.

    Amid the news earlier this year of the extreme droughts in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and California, I recently read that Lake Oroville, California’s second largest reservoir is back at 100% capacity after heavy snows and rains. And this is less than two years after

    the lake was so low that a hydroelectric plant there had to shut down due to low levels (1).

    However, despite large rainfalls and snow melt in the Colorado River basin, Lake Mead is still lower than any other recent year except 2022 and is 174 feet below full and only 105 feet above deadpool, the level where water will no longer flow by gravity through the Hoover Dam (2). Lake Powell is up 55 feet in the last 2 months (3); it is 200 feet above deadpool and about 125 feet below full. (3)

    Recent increases in water in the Colorado River drainage and in other areas in the Southwest are great news! However, long term management of Colorado River water remains a huge challenge.

    The Colorado River is key to almost all water issues in the American Southwest. Here is your chance to test your knowledge of the Colorado River. Test your best answers against the answer key at the end.

    1.       The Colorado River begins in ________and ends in__________ (4)?

    a.       Rocky Mountain National Park, the Gulf of California

    b.       Lake Dillon, the Pacific Ocean

    c.       Lake Powell, Lake Mead

    d.       Lake Itaska, the Gulf of Mexico

    2.       The Colorado River provides water for how many people (5)?

    a.       6.0221415 X 1023

    b.       Billions upon billions

    c.       40 million

    d.       99 million

    3.       What is the largest reservoir in America by volume (6)?

    a.       Lake Powell, AZ

    b.       Lake Shasta, CA

    c.       Flaming Gorge Reservoir, WY and UT

    d.       Lake Mead, NV

    4.       The Colorado Rivers irrigates __________ acres of land (5).

    a.       100 million

    b.       100, 000

    c.       5.7 million

    d.       More than a bundle, but less than a grip

    5.       How much of the Colorado River water is used for irrigation (5)?

    a.        37%

    b.       1,000,000 %

    c.       Less than 12 parsecs

    d.       80%

    6.       The amount of Colorado River water for all uses breaks down how (7)?

    a.       10% livestock feed, 27% other agriculture, 56% residential, 7% industrial

    b.       1% livestock feed, 90% winter vegetables, 6% residential, 3% other

    c.       13% political infighting, 32% swimming pools, 55% keep the oceans full

    d.       56% livestock feed, 24% other crops, 12% residential, 8% power and industrial

    7.       Which plan below for augmenting Colorado River water has been studied by the Federal Government (8)?

    a.       Trucking in ice from Alaskan glaciers using a group of 220 specially equipped trucks that continuously drive between Alaska and Lake Powell.

    b.       Carve off ice from the polar ice caps on Mars using lasers and tow it back to earth using unmanned spaceships.

    c.       Pipe water from the Mississippi delta using 88 foot diameter pipes to cover the 1500 mile distance and over 1 mile elevation gain.

    d.       Cover stretches of the Colorado River with special tarps that reduce losses from evaporation by 63-79%.

    Answer key:

    1.       a.

    2.       c.

    3.       d.

    4.       c.

    5.       d.

    6.       d.

    7.       c.

    These references below are interesting reads/facts about the Colorado River and water in the West:

    (1)    https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2023/06/14/us/lake-oroville-california-drought-climate/index.html

    (2)    https://mead.uslakes.info/level.asp

    (3)    https://lakepowell.water-data.com/

    (4)    https://water.utah.gov/interstate-streams/colorado-river-story/#:~:text=The%20mighty%20Colorado%20River%20serves,and%20two%20states%20in%20Mexico.

    (5)    https://farmland.org/colorado-river-challenges-pose-risks-to-western-agriculture/#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20the%20Colorado%20River,the%20size%20of%20New%20Hampshire.(6)    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largaest_reservoirs_in_the_United_States

    (7)    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/05/22/climate/colorado-river-water.html

    (8)    https://apnews.com/article/science-arizona-state-government-california-disaster-planning-and-response-automated-insights-earnings-be28e7e022007c82cdee63ca2b9ed555

    Rich MacAlpine is a volunteer member of the RMWQAA Board and would love to see everyone at the July 27 RMWQAA social!

  • 30 May 2023 10:12 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Many of you may be studying for a test so I thought I would try to write down a recent presentation I did for Aurora. It can be difficult to know where to start with this process. I would propose, the first thing to do is get a plan together. Here are some key questions: When is the test? How long do you have to study each day? What is the list of topics? Which topics are you already comfortable with and need less time? Once you know the answer to those questions make a study plan and stick to it! It is better to do more, shorter study sessions than long cramming. If you do have to do a long session, take frequent breaks. Plan to study, or at least run through flash cards right before bed. Your brain will continue to wire those neurons while you sleep.

    In order to learn, you have to struggle. Meaning you have to activate the connections between your neurons and you have to do it multiple times to make sure the connection is solid. Just reading or glancing at material is not going to make a solid connection. If repetition is key then using a variety of study techniques is also key. Engage as many of your senses as possible. Read about a topic, write it in your own words, talk to someone about it – talk to yourself about it (out loud), listen to a video, take quizzes or do activities, make flash cards. The more of these techniques you can use the better your neurons will connect and most importantly, your recall of the material will be enhanced.

    Use colored pens and notecards for studying. You will make an association with the colors and be able to remember the topic better. Consider using a set of colors for each topic. When you make flashcards, just the creation of them will be a good study technique. You can then use them traditionally and I suggest sorting and resorting them into different categories. You can also make up poems or songs or acronyms for material. They don’t have to make sense, but they will help you connect material.

    If you are studying and taking practice tests, getting answers wrong also helps you understand where you need more studying. Read different sources so you get different perspectives on the material. You can use videos or recordings of yourself repeating the material. Make sure when you choose videos or material online, that you are picking good sources. You don’t want to study incorrect information.

    Now, you’ve studied everything and it’s time to take the test. My number one and most important advice is to BREATHE! Taking a deep breath before you start will help you calm your nerves and relax you. You can do this, you are prepared! You went to bed early last night, you didn’t stay up cramming because you had a plan and stuck to it! Perfect right?

    Maybe, but maybe it wasn’t perfect so here’s a few things to consider as you take the test.

    When you read the question, make sure you read the entire question carefully. Write down key things in the question. Write down the answer before you look at the answers. Then read the answers. Find the best answer. Some might be close, but maybe not THE BEST. Eliminate the most obviously wrong answers. It's important to select the best answer to the question being asked, not just an answer that seems correct. Often many answers will seem correct, but there is typically a best answer to the question.

    Pay particularly close attention to the words not, sometimes, always, and never. An answer that includes always must be irrefutable. If you can find a single counterexample, then the answer is not correct. The same holds true for the word never. If an answer option includes the word never, a single counterexample will indicate the answer is not correct.

    More often than not, the correct answer usually contains more information than the other options. This is good to know if you must guess.

    Usually, your first choice is the best choice – you’ve wired those neurons so trust them! DO NOT CHANGE YOUR ANSWER! This is a good rule to live by for test taking. If you think you mis-read the question or mis-understood the question the first time you answered it, maybe change the answer. I say you must have a very good reason to change your first choice.

    If you come across questions you don’t know, skip them and come back later. Answering the questions you know will build your confidence. Once in a while, you will find a question that either answers the question you didn’t know or triggers your memory and helps you answer it.

    Again, my number one advice for tests is BREATHE! Remember I said repetition is key! BREATHE!

    Good Luck! I know you can do it!

    Sherry Scaggiari is the Environmental Services Manager 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 15 years. She is responsible for compliance for Aurora Water including water, wastewater, stormwater.

  • 27 Apr 2023 10:32 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Spring is in full swing! It has been so satisfying to see new green growth in the plants and trees around my new neighborhood. I recently bought a house in which the backyard was nothing but river rock and a small patch of astroturf smack in the middle. While I do appreciate the water conservation and no maintenance aspect of this layout, I personally prefer a little more color and plant life. It was exciting to take on the project of creating a new landscape, but a bit daunting at the same time as I had never started completely from scratch before. Xeriscaping was part of the plan to create a more environmentally friendly space, but more research was needed to more fully understand what all went into this landscaping technique. However, this technique was only a part of the landscaping practices that could create a beautiful and sustainable yard. This was the first time I had heard the term GreenScaping which encompasses many eco-friendly practices and can also save time and money.

    The EPA outlines five ways to get started and the first step is to build and maintain healthy soil with compost and mulch. This step involves testing your soil to make sure the soil is in good condition, applying compost and mulch to hold the nutrients and water needed for planting, and recommends using natural or slow release fertilizers to feed plants slowly and more evenly. The second step is to plant right for your site. It is important to know the type of soil you have, the areas in your yard that get the most or least sun, etc. to help plan which plants thrive best. Ideally, obtaining plants that need less water and are also more resistant to pests is a way to save money and help with pest control. Speaking of watering, this is the next step! Practice smart watering for healthier plants. Watering your garden or lawn just enough but not too much can be tricky. Watering deeply, but infrequently is a good practice as most plants actually do best if the soil is allowed to partially dry out between waterings. Other tips include using soaker hoses or drip irrigation to save more water in comparison to using sprinklers, using a water timer to maintain how much is given, the frequency, and time of day to water.

    The fourth step is to adopt a holistic approach to managing pests and spreading disease among plants. Prevention is the most effective way to start by using the soil tips mentioned earlier and using pest resistant plants, but also to maintain a clean environment for your plants by removing weeds and diseased and dead plants to keep these problems from spreading and to reduce hiding places for pests. If pesticides are needed, it’s important not to overuse them. For example, if you have a small problem area, treat just the area and not the entire yard. The fifth and last step is to practice natural lawn care by keeping up with the previous steps on a regular basis: grasscycling, using natural or slow release fertilizers, watering deeply but infrequently, and additionally, to overseed your lawn in areas that are thin and aerating in the fall to improve root development and water penetration.

    Happy gardening!

    Link to EPA's GreenScaping Flyer

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

  • 31 Mar 2023 4:24 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Hi!  I’m South Platte Sally. You may remember me from the February 2021 and May 2022 RMWQAA blog posts. Sometimes you can see me sampling the river in the middle of the night, even in winter. 

    You might be wondering why I’m out there.  Well…I’m a volunteer helping Metro Water Recovery’s Water Quality Team.  Recently, I helped with the overnight shift collecting water samples for a 30-Hour Study. The data from this study is used to calibrate and refine the South Platte Water Quality Model (the model) that was developed for Metro Water Recovery nearly three decades ago. The combination of monitoring and modeling over Segments 15 and 1a of the South Platte River provides a detailed functional view of water quality below wastewater discharge points. 

    Initially, water quality scientists and regulators used the model to learn how upstream discharge might be contributing to low dissolved oxygen levels measured downstream. After that, the goal was to understand the factors affecting the water quality to make environmentally and financially responsible decisions to improve water quality. The model helps predict the return on investment of any treatment upgrades in terms of river health.  It supports and helps evaluate proposed regulatory changes including permit requirements. The model has evolved over time to become a very useful tool for predicting the results of treatment changes for multiple parameters including ammonia, temperature, phosphorus and nitrogen.

    There is a high degree of interaction between the parameters of interest in a river system.  Ammonia is toxic to aquatic life, and its degree of toxicity is dependent on pH and temperature. Therefore, changes in pH and temperature downstream, as well as changes in concentration of ammonia downstream, cause progressive change in the numeric standard for ammonia. Temperature has only more recently become subject to numeric standards and being included into most discharge permits. Temperature standards are based on daily maxima and weekly averages, and are intended to prevent dischargers from adding heat to the mixed flow below their discharges in an amount that would cause the mixed flow temperatures to exceed aquatic life standards.  Nutrients are important because they contribute to algae growth that effects pH values in downstream reservoirs.

    With so many intertwined parameters, the creation and sustainability of the model requires quite a lot of data to capture the impact of river health.  Data collection includes regular water quality sampling of the 42-mile stretch of the river plus groundwater data, flow data from various sites up and downstream of tributaries, and other dischargers.

    So why does the model need calibration and why collect at night? Every 5 years or so, the model needs to be calibrated. This requires continuous sampling for a 30 hour period of time for dissolved oxygen, pH, and nutrient concentrations.  All of these relationships have different process rates related to flow and temperature and are most pronounced during low flow conditions.  Capturing the overnight changes helps with a more accurate calibration of the model.  So, Sally and the team put on their headlamps and take shifts. 

    Besides predicting dissolved oxygen downstream of wastewater effluent discharge, the model has been applied to several small projects, including development and evaluation of site-specific copper standards and evaluations of water diversions at the Burlington Ditch on downstream water quality.

    Cross-sectional variation in river temperatures was also modeled and led to recommendations for temperature monitoring strategies.  The model is an evolving tool that has proven to be valuable in estimation of biological processes affecting dissolved oxygen, nitrate, ammonia, and total inorganic nitrogen.

    Learn more about this study in the Rationale for and Explanation of Metro District’s Water Quality Modeling of the South Platte River, prepared by William M. Lewis, Jr.  James H. McCutchan, Jr.  January 24, 2019.  This report describes recalibration of the model leading to new estimates of effluent limits for dissolved oxygen, nitrogen species, and total phosphorus.

    And, as always, please reach out to me if you need a volunteer to help with any of your water quality projects!

    -SP Sal

    South Platte Sally is an experienced scientist who has worked all over the world.  Sally holds degrees in Fisheries Science, Biology, City Planning, and Psychology. She currently volunteers for various Water and Wastewater entities  in Colorado and always willing to help out.

  • 20 Feb 2023 9:05 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    In a wastewater laboratory, we’re typically focused on effluent quality. Influent is usually only analyzed for a handful of basic analytes (BOD, TSS, pH, some metals) to calculate loading rates and provide a general understanding of how that influent could possibly impact treatment. However, the COVID pandemic has greatly changed that. The only other time I’ve been so focused on influent was during the 2013 Flood, when we were trying to figure out what was in the water that was coming into the plant.

    Many facilities have been analyzing influent for SARS-CoV-2 for almost 3 years now and we’ve learned so much during that time. At the Boulder WRRF, we first started analyzing for COVID in our wastewater in March 2019. We began with Biobot and, after a handful of samples, had a strong correlation with the case data that Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) was posting on their website. During the spring of 2019, we also participated in COVID wastewater studies with GT Molecular and the USGS and were able to compare data from different labs. Additionally, we began monitoring sub-sewershed areas to get some baseline data and evaluate the usefulness of grab samples. In the summer of 2019, we officially joined the COllaborative, a group of local utilities, CDPHE, and CSU that were aimed to put our heads and efforts together while we were all trying to figure out the best plan of action during the madness of the pandemic.

    While composite samples will always remain the gold standard in representative wastewater sampling, it’s not always feasible to have enough autosamplers to achieve this. We did a study in 2019 in our most residential neighborhood to evaluate grab samples for SARS-CoV-2. With only 7 samples, we had a fairly strong correlation (R2 = 0.96) between grab and composite samples. We learned that collecting the grab samples at “peak fecal flow” time results in the best correlation, which requires having some knowledge of the sewershed.

    We also learned several things about analyzing the data. In the lab, we tend to focus on concentration (copies/L) data. However, we’ve found that it’s more useful to look at COVID loading (copies/day) data to get a good picture of community infection. When we began receiving sewershed level case data from BCPH, we noticed case data was evaluated with a 5-day rolling average, so we started running a 5-day rolling average on our wastewater data, as well. Wastewater data can also be prone to spikes due to the challenging matrix. This means it is not useful to analyze single data points but more important to look at trends over time. We also learned that sample pickup could be a bigger headache than it should be. When the COllaborative began providing a shared, dedicated courier for multiple facilities, our sample delivery woes subsided. Also, we installed a pickup (and drop-off) tote that is just outside our gate, which allows couriers to grab samples without gaining facility access and has proven useful for the entire facility.

    In my opinion, the most important thing that we have learned is that wastewater-based epidemiology can be successful, has incredible potential, and should be explored and utilized. While our COVID case data has correlated well with wastewater data for about 2 years, in the spring of 2022 we began to see a divergence between COVID wastewater data and case data. Most of us believe this is because, after 2 years of the pandemic, most people have grown weary of testing and reporting and simply don’t care anymore. However, we’re all still pooping. So, we’ve learned that case data is influenced by social factors- people have to go get tested or test at home and then report the positive results. Therefore, wastewater data may be a better indication of community infection than data reported by public health organizations.

    We continue to analyze our influent for COVID twice per week and this data all funnels into the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) (https://www.cdc.gov/nwss/wastewater-surveillance/index.html). The CDC has also setup two Centers of Excellence, one here in Colorado (https://www.du.edu/nwsscoe) and the other in Houston, to continue advancing this field and science. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is also involved with things like the NWSS Utilities Community of Practice (https://nwbe.org/?page_id=169), programs to provide autosamplers (https://nwbe.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/WEF-autosampler-flow-meter-invitation-2-6-23.pdf), workshops, etc. We are also beginning to look at wastewater surveillance from a global perspective and learn from other countries, as well as considering equity in monitoring. Additionally, there are still many ethical and privacy considerations to be thoroughly considered.

    However, the power of poop has been revealed and we want to be more prepared for the next large-scale pandemic or infection. The NWSS plans to add several components to its core surveillance panel in 2023 to include things like influenza, RSV, norovirus, and antibiotic resistance genes. Progress continues to be made in finding the best ways to display this data through public dashboards. And, of course, funding is key and will play a critical role in the future of this data. But it has become clear that we have more to learn from those influent samples than just calculating BOD loading. What gets flushed down the toilet and shows up at our headworks has the potential to tell us so much about a community and we’re just beginning to tap into the power of that information.

    Melissa Mimna is Laboratory Program Supervisor for the City of Boulder where she’s worked in the WRRF laboratory for the past 10 years. Melissa is also currently serving on the CO NWSS Center of Excellence Advisory Committee so please reach out with any wastewater-based surveillance questions or ideas (or if you have poop jokes or puns to share).

  • 25 Jan 2023 6:57 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    A new year brings with it resolutions, pledges, and people striving to better themselves. I thought it would be good to also highlight some opportunities where we can better our communities and beautiful public spaces this year.

    The Protect Our Rivers organization has three river cleanups scheduled for 2023 around Colorado. RSVP on the event page of their website here.

    • 16th Annual South Platte Cleanup - Saturday April 29th - Denver, CO
    • Poudre River with Weibel Auto Group and American Whitewater - Saturday August 5th - Fort Collins, CO
    • National Public Lands Day - Upper C - Saturday September 30th - Kremling, CO

    The Greenway Foundation hosts youth and high school focused events worth checking out including a South Platte River cleanup in 2023. Registration will open in March here.

    • Spring High School Stewardship Day - South Platte River cleanup along the river at Johnson Habitat Park. Food and service hours provided but is for high school aged youth only.

    The Denver Park Trust is putting on a citywide stewardship day including park cleanups at several locations around Denver. More details will be coming here.

    • Parks, Rivers, Trails & Trees - May 13th - Citywide park cleanup followed by a community celebration

    The Confluences is a family blog focused on wilderness and camping which has hosted three annual Clean Creek cleanups called A Cleaner Clear. Recaps from past events can be found on their blog here. A 4th annual cleanup should be watched for in late 2023.

    Do you have a location that you'd like to organize a cleanup for? The folks responsible for A Cleaner Clear have a blogpost laying out all of the steps you should take when planning a cleanup. If anything, it helped remind me just how much work and personal time goes into planning events like these.

    These are just some events that I've found coming up in 2023. I know that I've missed many so if there are others, please share them with the group! The year is still young so many events haven't been announced yet. Have a wonderful 2023!

    Danny McCausland is an Analyst II at Metro Water Recovery. He has over 9 years experience working in the water quality field.

  • 19 Dec 2022 8:59 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    As the ski season starts to ramp up, I became more curious of the importance of water for ski resorts in their process of snowmaking. Anyone who has been to any of these mountain resorts has probably seen their snowmaking machines pumping out snow to ensure fresh powder is available for all the skiers and snowboarders. I wanted to first investigate exactly what the process of snowmaking entailed but then also investigate where these resorts were getting their water and how various environmental impacts such as drought might impact these resorts.

    After doing some research I found Steamboat has a good blog on how their snow is made. Steamboat has been making snow since 1981 and they have been able to improve their technique over the years. They can make over 600-acre feet of snow each season using over 300 guns and 40 miles of buried pipe. The process of making snow has two important factors that impact the resort’s ability to make snow that are outside of the crew’s direct control. One is the wind and the other is wet bulb temperature. Wet bulb temperature is how air temperature and relative humidity interact with each other. The lower the relative humidity, the colder the wet bulb temperature will be. Ideally for snow making, the wet bulb temperatures are less than 26°F. So, crews are looking for low wind, temperature, and humidity. Steamboat crews use the Yampa River as the main source of water for their resort. They pump the water from the river via pipes at about 40°F, then shoot it into the air through the guns. The water will stay in the air until it freezes and turns into snow. Snowcat operators spread the piles around to make the conditions ideal for skiers.

    These resorts need a lot of water each ski season to provide artificial snow. According to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, (CDNR) Colorado uses about 2.2 billion gallons of water every year in the snowmaking process. The CDNR regulates how much water each business is allowed to use. Ski resorts have a set amount of water they can use every year from senior water rights that they obtained years ago. 

    Credit: Colorado Department of Natural Resources

    As we experience different environmental impacts such as droughts, the available water becomes scarcer. Even though a lot of these resorts own water rights it doesn’t mean water will always be available. Because of this, many resorts are working on ways they can improve the snowmaking process and help with the conservation of water. Over time, resorts have learned that dry weather and low wind help produce better quality snow that will last longer. Many resorts have figured out optimal times to make snow as well. An important factor in snowmaking is ensuring that everything you made does not melt right away. So, working around weather forecasts and keeping the snow as cold as possible is an important factor to keeping our ski resorts snowy.  

    Many of these resorts are used as “cold storage” for water. About 80% of the water used in snowmaking is recycled back into the watershed at the end of the ski season. Because of this, many resorts are now focusing on energy-efficient technology that allows them to manage their resources and use less energy. Skiing and snowboarding are great winter activities that many residents and visitors to the State of Colorado enjoy taking part in. Water is critical to keep these activities going for many years to come. It was nice to learn more about this process and the different efforts resorts are taking to keep operations going despite challenges with the water supply.



    Michael Hendricks is a Water Quality Senior Technician for Denver Water

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