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  • 13 May 2021 10:59 AM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    As a water and scientific centric community, much of our focus is centered on emerging contaminants, challenges in treatment, new technologies, or whether that beer made from recycled water can really be trusted. These topics often leave me brain-drained, wondering if I will be able to retain or understand any of the information I just received. That drain is relatively easy to overcome once I get back home, get some rest, and focus on life outside of work. There is however, a lingering drain on my psyche this time of year, leaving myself and likely others, feeling pressured to make major changes at all levels when it comes to the conservation of water. Reading about droughts, water shortages, or companies taking water improperly with little to no punishment (*ahem* Nestle!) can be mentally taxing.


    I often wonder if I am doing enough to help conserve water and reduce usage in my household, while simultaneously convincing myself “there’s only so much I can do.” In fact, there is SO MUCH I can do! Lately I have found that the smallest of changes throughout my day have improved my mentality with regards to being water conscious, and I wanted to use this month’s blog to remind us of some well-known, as well as relatively unknown methods of conserving water. If I can reduce my water usage by just one gallon a day, then that means one to two days’ worth of an individual’s recommended fluid intake is available for use elsewhere, or at least not being used unnecessarily! Stringing any number of the methods below can increase that number drastically. How many measures can you add to your daily routine?


    The Obvious:

    You’ve likely heard of or implemented these steps already, but it wouldn’t be a list of water saving tips without them!


                   -Fix leaks, replace washers, limit drips: One of the best ways to reduce water use is to eliminate uncontrolled use of water. Washers are cheap, and in hoses they are simple to replace, start there if you find leaks on the way to the yard or garden. Sink faucets take a bit more time, but washers can easily be replaced (a quick google helps if you are unsure). A leak that drips just once a minute can amount to roughly a liter of water a day, but often drips occur at ten times that rate.1 

                   -Reduce shower time: One minute off your shower time can save 2.5 gallons based on the average showerhead, according to the EPA. Any amount of time you can shave off here adds up quickly!

                   ­-Install low-flow shower heads and toilets: More efficiency and less flow means less water use, easy fix here if you can install your own. If renting like myself, you can always reach out to the landlord about making these minor changes and the importance of reducing water usage. If not for you, maybe they will think about making the switch between tenants!

                   -Don’t let water run in general if not in use: This goes for all tasks water related, if it’s not actively in use, make sure the faucet is off. Brushing your teeth, washing your hands, doing the dishes, all of these involve the use of the faucet, but not the entire time. One minute of faucet use can equate to a gallon of water at an average flow setting.2


    The Less Obvious:

    Some of these may come into play on a daily basis already, but some less apparent methods for saving could be added in!


                   -Collect water for general use rather than letting it flow down the drain: Nobody wants to jump in the shower right as you turn the faucet on. If you really want to go into full water savings mode, use a bucket to collect the cold water as the shower warms up, then use it on general tasks around the house: watering plants, watering pets, rinsing dishes, cleaning in general! This can work in any scenario where you may need to run water until it reaches a desired temperature. Collect water in a pitcher to put in the fridge for cold drinking water later rather than running the faucet until it is cold (I suppose ice is a thing too…)

                   -Drink tap water over bottled: Aside from the impact plastic has on the environment, it also takes at least twice as much water to make a plastic bottle than then bottle can hold. Reusable bottles or cups all the way!3 

                   -Defrost food ahead of time in the fridge: Rather than setting the food in water, or running water over it to defrost.

                   -Use the garbage disposal less frequently: Scrape food waste off into the trash as much as possible, disposals require running water to be effective. This can also reduce the time required to rinse off dishes in general.

                   -Wash dishes and laundry in full loads: Math would dictate that 2 large loads of laundry uses less water than 3 medium loads. I can always count on finding random clothes or hand towels that can fill up a load if I really need to get a smaller set of clothes washed!

                   -Find efficiency in the garden: I could create a whole blog on garden efficiency itself! There are plenty of venues to save water here:4 

    • Mulch around plants to allow for less evaporation of water
    • Water locally near the base of the plant
    • Don’t water if the soil is still visibly wet
    • Use drip irrigation if possible
    • Collect water for outdoor use during rain events – Most areas in Colorado now allow for the collection of up to 110 gallons of rain water to use on the lawn or garden.5 Or use that water collected from the methods above!
    • Water in ground plants in the morning to reduce evaporation
    • Plant native vegetation where possible, they are used to our arid climate
    • Mow the lawn higher and with sharp blades, both can reduce water use of lawns
    • Install timers, forgetting a running sprinkler is great for the lawn in the short term, but terrible for water conservation all around (guilty as charged..) They can also be delayed, or sense rain events to reduce unnecessary watering

    The Unknown or “Life Changers”:

    These methods are further removed from water itself and may require a good deal of work to implement on your own and as a population. Producers will produce so long as customers continue to use their products, so it takes a large group of individuals making adjustments over time to see real change, but it can be done! Props to those of you who may already be participating in the following:


                   -Eat less meat: Some of you reading this have likely already taken this route, so you are well ahead of my water saving footprint! Meat products require water use in keeping the animals alive directly with water, as well as growing their food source. Fruits and veggies cut out the middle man (middle cow?) and only require a water source and some TLC. Even substituting a beef meal with a chicken meal can provide a major reduction in water usage! Denver Water helps highlight the differences in water usage among food sources in this article. 


    Food water footprint

                

           -Drive less when possible: It requires roughly 2.5 gallons of water to refine a single gallon of gas. Why not combine climate benefits with water resource benefits and walk or bike to those nearby locations instead? If nothing else, do your best to avoid hoarding gasoline in general… https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gas-shortage-panic-colonial-pipeline-cyberattack/

                   -Opt in to Xeriscape Rebate Programs: A number of cities across the state offer programs that help rebate or mitigate the cost of replacing water guzzling lawns. Greeley, for example, will rebate $1 per square foot of bluegrass turf removed and replaced up to 2000 square feet! Obviously there are some stipulations and applications involved, but it is possible to receive money, use less water, and reduce time spent mowing every week. Check in with your City to see if they have similar options, and if not, reach out to City Council to see if they have plans or are interested in creating a similar program!


    This is by no means a comprehensive list, so feel free to find methods that fit with your lifestyle. Even implementing just one of the above tips into your daily routine can make an impact on water usage, and leave you feeling happy with the effort you’ve made!


    References:

    1. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-drip.html

    2. https://www.greenamerica.org/save65gallons

    3. https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/the-hidden-water-in-everyday-products/

    4. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/25-ways-to-conserve-water-in-your-garden-pictures

    5. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/natural-resources/rainwater-collection-colorado-6-707/



    *Tyler Eldridge is the Data and Asset Manager for the City of Greeley's Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Facility, he also helps maintain the website and memberships for the RMWQAA.

  • 20 Apr 2021 2:29 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    If you work in the water or wastewater field you have probably heard a lot lately about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). So what is PFAS? It is a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used throughout the world, including the US since the 1940s, and are found in many consumer products such as microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, fast food wrappers, shampoo, dental floss, stain repellents, and non-stick cookware. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, airports, and military installations that use firefighting foams are some of the main sources of PFAS. PFAS may be released into the air, soil, and water, including sources of drinking water. Scientists call them “forever chemicals'' because their chemistry keeps them from breaking down under typical environmental conditions.


    The two main PFAS chemicals that we hear a lot about are: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is used in the process of making Teflon and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) which was the key ingredient in Scotchgard, a fabric protector made by 3M, and numerous stain repellents. I can remember having my carpets professionally cleaned and being offered (at an additional charge of course) the application of Scotchgard. This would make my carpet repel and block stains and with three kids why wouldn’t I want it!? It sounded like a miracle product.


    So, why are PFAS important?  There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. The most consistent findings include higher cholesterol rates. Some studies have also noted low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (PFOS). In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a revised lifetime health advisory of 70 ng/L for individual, or combined, PFOA and PFOS concentrations. This is a health advisory, not a standard. Certain PFAS can accumulate and stay in the human body for long periods of time.


    What does this mean for drinking water and wastewater facilities? Currently, PFAS chemicals aren’t regulated in Colorado and the EPA hasn’t established drinking water regulations yet. However, many drinking water facilities participated in the 2020 Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment’s free testing program that was offered to public drinking water systems serving communities, schools, and workplaces and also to fire districts with wells. This project tested for PFAS throughout the state in treated drinking water from public water systems, groundwater and surface water sources used for drinking water, and wells serving fire districts. The results can be found here


    On March 11, 2021, the EPA published the proposed fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). UCMR 5, as proposed, would require drinking water facilities to sample for 30 chemical contaminants between 2023 and 2025. These chemicals include 29 PFAS and lithium. EPA is currently accepting public comment on the proposed UCMR 5. Labs will be able to use either of two EPA validated analytical methods for potable (drinking) waters (Methods 533 and 537.1).


    As for wastewater,  the Water Quality Control Commission’s Policy 20-1 was approved in July 2020. The policy provides guidance on how to implement permit conditions for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances under the existing narrative standard. The policy also sets values for a subset of PFAS, called translation levels. These translation levels may be used to implement permit effluent limits for PFAS in Colorado Discharge Permit System permits and to develop Colorado’s impaired waters list. However, there are currently no analytical methods for analyzing PFAS in wastewaters (non-potable) that are approved for Clean Water Act monitoring per 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 136 (Appendix B). Despite the fact that there are no analytical methods, monitoring for these parameters made it into the first Colorado permit on March 31, 2021.


    So what can we expect in the future? On November 22, 2020, the EPA released a memo that describes recommendations for an interim Federal NPDES permitting strategy for PFAS. The memo was developed by an internal workgroup, in which all EPA regions were represented. The memo presented three primary recommendations:


    1. The inclusion of PFAS in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit monitoring requirements, using a phased-in approach to account for ongoing EPA analytical method development.
    2. Stormwater monitoring and pollutant control for municipal and industrial stormwater permits, addressing PFAS using traditional controls such as control measures, monitoring, stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPPs)
    3. Information sharing, using established platforms, such as a PFAS-permitting compendium on the EPA’s NPDES Municipal Sources Resources website, and information sharing on the EPA’s NPDES Permit Writers’ Clearinghouse.


    Structure of PFOA


    Lesa Julian has worked for the City and County of Broomfield for 30 years.  She is currently the Environmental Services Superintendent.

  • 22 Mar 2021 10:22 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    The Mpemba effect is the curious phenomenon that hot water can freeze faster than cold water. Consider that! A container of hot water, identical in all other aspects except temperature to another container of water, can freeze before the cooler water. Surprised? Confused? You are not alone! The question of whether this is real or not has been discussed for over 2300 years.


    The Mpemba effect is named after Erasto Mpemba. As a high school student in Tanzania, he re-invigorated the scientific discussion about this effect, along with a professor that worked with him. Mpemba was making ice cream by boiling milk and adding sugar, then freezing it. He noticed that the boiling hot mixture that he put into a freezer formed into ice cream faster than a cooler similar milk and sugar mixture that a fellow student had added to the freezer. (I think it is important that this fascinating effect was elevated in scientific circles through making ice cream faster than your friends.) At first Mpemba was more mocked than believed for his assertion, but through dogged determination Mpemba got a professor interested, and a series of university experiments supported Mpemba’s observation. Mpemba and the professor, Dr. Osborne, put out a paper together in 1969 entitled simply “Cool?” This increased scientific interest in this odd cooling effect.


    Mpemba was one in a long line of people looking into this effect. It had been noticed by none other than Aristotle in the 300s BC. Aristotle wrote that “The fact that water has previously been warmed contributes to its freezing quickly…” and implied that this was well known (if not well understood) by saying that “Many people, when they want to cool water quickly begin by putting it in the sun”. Aristotle was unable to empirically prove, or even put forth a reasonable mechanism for this effect.


    In the 1200s, Roger Bacon, an English philosopher and scientist, experimented with this then-called ‘hot begets cold quicker’ phenomenon without resolution.  In the 1400s (now 1700 years after Aristotle), the Italian physicist, doctor, and mathematician Giovanni Marliani is said to have the first empirical proof of this effect, although the reasons why were not understood. Francis Bacon wrote about hot water freezing quicker than cool water in 1620 in his “Novum Organum Vol VIII”, as did Rene’ Descartes in his 1637 “Les Meteores”. Over three hundred years later when Mpemba revived interest in this effect it was still not understood.


    After Mpemba reinvigorated discussion about this effect there was of course considerable doubt in the scientific community. And why not? The very idea of it seems to contradict or at least skirt basic rules of thermodynamics. The fact that the mechanism could not be explained, and that the Mpemba effect only worked (if it indeed did work) in certain circumstances and seemingly none of the experiments were able to isolate all other factors or be reproducible also cast doubt.


    Forty some years after the publication of “Cool?”, there was still controversy. In 2012 Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry had a worldwide competition to find the best explanation of the Mpemba effect. It had 22,000 submissions (including one from the author). The winning submission (not this author’s) focused on four possible reasons for the effect. While none are proven to be the single reason for the effect, some think that a combination of these four plus an additional fifth possible reason known as “Super cooling” might account for the effect. Others deny still that the effect exists and point to some experiments showing this.


    Here are the explanations put forth for the Mpemba effect:

    1. Evaporation – hotter water evaporates more. Evaporation itself is a cooling effect, besides which hot water would have less mass to cool due to evaporation.
    2. Dissolved gasses – hot water contains less dissolved gasses (and boiling water removes almost all gasses). Less gasses could change the ability of the water to conduct heat, could reduce thermal insulation in the water, or could change the freezing point of the water.
    3. Convection – hot water will have greater temperature gradients and as water density is a product of temperature the cooling effect of convection currents from temperature gradients will affect the total cooling of the water.
    4. Surroundings – the theory that hot water somehow affects the surrounding of its container in such a way that facilitates quicker cooling. For example, a container of hot water might melt ice that the container is on, increasing physical contact between the container and the ice, which would assist cooling.
    5. Supercooling – the idea that cooler water would possibly need to supercool below 0 degrees C in order to actually freeze. This idea also incorporates the idea that a nucleation site might be needed in the cooler water in order to form ice crystals, while something called temperature shear in non-thermally homogenous cooling hot water would cause freezing closer to 0 degrees C for hot water.

    This is all just fascinating to me! The Mpemba effect to date has neither been totally disproved or proved. As they say, “We can put a human on the moon, but we still don’t know if cold water freezes before hot water.” Also, a great learning subtext to this story is that a young student put forth a proposition that seems preposterous, but that may be true. It is a lesson in keeping an open mind and not dismissing different ideas out of hand.


    What do you think? Could the Mpemba effect be true? Would it defy accepted laws of thermodynamics? Could it be the key to other learning? Or maybe more importantly, would it change how you make ice cubes at home? (We tried to test this several times in our freezer, but our experimental plan failed every time due to “Look – squirrel!”. However, my wife and I do agree that boiled water makes much prettier ice cubes).


    Thanks!


    Richard MacAlpine


    Richard is a Lab Supervisor at Metro Wastewater Reclamation District in Denver. His opinions and any facts presented in this blog are his responsibility solely and do not reflect at all on his employer. Richard is also the RMWEA Lab Practices (LPC) Committee Chair and is on the RMWQAA Board.


    Resources:

    https://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/hot_water.html More detail on the five main mechanisms considered to cause the Mpemba effect


    https://edu.rsc.org/download?ac=13093 Copy of Erasto Mpemba and Dr. Osborne’s 1969 paper “Cool?” in Physics Education, 1969


    https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/health/18real.html A quick article arguing that while the Mpemba effect is real, its obverse (cold water boiling faster than hot water) is not


    https://www.nature.com/articles/srep37665#:~:text=The%20Mpemba%20effect%20is%20the,to%20the%20writings%20of%20Aristotle. Nature article arguing against the Mpemba effect


    http://www.eoht.info/page/Aristotle-Mpemba%20effect  Brief history of the Mpemba effect, general info, and how the Mpemba effect may apply to the Cold War (the social Mpemba effect).


    https://www.rsc.org/news-events/articles/2012/06-june/rsc-offers-1000-for-explanation-of-an-unsolved-legendary-phenomenon/ Royal Society of Chemistry Mpemba effect competition from 2012 (which again, the author did not win), and other info


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Marliani#cite_note-Hot_water_freezes_faster_than_cold_water-1  Marliani’s supposed empirical proof of the Mpemba effect, and his inability to ascribe a mechanism to it


    http://www.eoht.info/page/Roger%20Bacon Info on Roger Bacon, who was called the first scientist, was the originator of the scientific method, and one in a line of people who did not solve the Mpemba effect


  • 26 Feb 2021 10:14 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    South Platte Sally came to help out in 2020 quarantine times after traveling throughout the US and overseas. As many folks, Sally came home to be close to family and friends and help those from her home state of Colorado.  Along with several degrees in Fisheries Science, Biology, City Planning, and Psychology, Sally has worked in various labs and performed field work across the country.  Due to her unique DNA, Sally is immune to Covid-19, which makes her the perfect volunteer.  She is also lucky enough to be independently wealthy due to her family’s successful line of toys.  She only volunteers and never takes a paycheck. Maybe that’s why she always has a smile on her face. 


    Her recent work on the South Platte River has been full of adventure.  She started with a season of electroshocking last Fall. Sally was able to score a prize-winning green sunfish at 72mm and 5g.  Of course, she is a fan of catch and release.  Other skills in her bag include sampling and analysis of rivers, lakes, and groundwater.  Sally assisted in a recent invasive aquatic plant survey and study, but results are still pending.  In the lab she’s working with other chemists to develop PFAS methodology. 


    Look for future posts from Sally about all field and lab related topics.





    Michelle Neilson, Water Quality Technician, has been with Metro Wastewater for over 12 years.  She has a B.S. in Chemistry, and has 23 years of experience in the Environmental field.  Michelle has worked for USGS, contract laboratories, and several municipal wastewater and drinking water labs prior to Metro Wastewater. 

  • 30 Jan 2021 8:52 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Besides popping a bottle of champagne with friends, staying up until midnight dancing the night away, and watching the count down to the ball drop in Times Square in anticipation of a kiss or a hug from that special so and so……wait, let me re-phrase, it was the end of 2020 after all.  Besides drinking a bottle of wine by yourself, watching the Twilight Zone marathon, then falling asleep on the couch at 9:30 pm, another tradition that comes with a new year is the procrastination of a half-hearted attempt at coming up with personal goals to improve the essential aspects of daily life, or the new years resolution. Research has shown that 50% of adults in the U.S. make New Year's resolutions, but fewer than 10% actually keep them for more than a few months (1). But come on people its 2021!  We can do better than that! Below are a few links to help you keep on track with your new years resolutions!


    https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2019/12/21/the-top-3-reasons-new-years-resolutions-fail-and-how-yours-can-succeed/?sh=3bab1c196992


    https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-keep-your-new-years-resolutions-2795719


    https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/seven-steps-for-making-your-new-years-resolutions-stick


    https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/resolution-ideas


    References

    1: https://www.westernconnecticuthealthnetwork.org/newsroom/article-listing/new-years-resolutions#:~:text=re%20not%20alone.-,Research%20shows%20that%20as%20many%20as%2050%20percent%20of%20adults,from%20the%20COVID%2D19%20pandemic.


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


  • 30 Dec 2020 8:58 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Whether you wear prescription glasses, safety glasses, or sunglasses, you're sure to notice the imminent fog caused by the required masks. This fog can be annoying and downright dangerous, and it is only going to get worse as the temperatures continue to decrease. Because I am blind without my glasses and rely on my mask for COVID-19 protection, I decided to research to find a way to make these two necessities work together.


    Let's discuss why your glasses fog up in the first place. As you exhale, the water molecules in your breath hit your face mask. Depending on how porous the material is, some will penetrate, some will be absorbed, and most will be directed to the path of least resistance - typically the space at the top between your mask and cheeks. Because your glasses are colder than the air inside your mask, your breath will condensate on them, causing the annoying fog.


    One way to keep your glasses from fogging up is to ensure that your mask fits properly with an adjustable noseband. If your mask does not have a noseband, you can always make one out of pipe cleaners and secure it to the top of your mask. After trying several different types of masks with built-in nosebands, it still allows for some air to come through and fog your glasses. The noseband helps but is not the best solution.


    A method that works well with some of the masks I own is using your glasses to seal the top of the mask. If you pull your mask up higher on the bridge of your nose, you can set your glasses on your mask, ensuring that there is no gap for your breath to escape. I have found that some mask material allows my glasses to slide down my nose, and other masks create a gap between my chin and mask when I pull it up for this method. It works in a pinch, but there has to be a better way!


    Healthcare workers insist that their secret for fogging glasses is using soap and water. When they wash their hands, they also give their glasses a lather and rinse. The soap is supposed to leave a film on the glasses that keeps them from fogging up. I tried with a mild hand soap first then moved onto dishwasher soap, both with no avail. Maybe the healthcare workers have a stronger detergent that works better for the anti-fogging, but as far as I have seen, the soap and water do not provide any added benefit.


    Mask extenders claim to help with the fogging issue by linking the ear loops of your mask on the back of your head, providing a tighter fit of your mask on your face. Not only are mask extenders more comfortable for your ears, they narrow the space where your breath typically escapes between your mask and cheeks. You can buy these online, ask your bored mother to knit you one, or even improvise with some paper clips. Using the mask extenders with a mask that has an adjustable noseband will give you the best results. When trying this method, I only had fogging when I exhaled really big breaths, so this could be a reasonable solution to the fogging issue.


    Using a tissue to block the space between your cheeks and mask was mentioned on Facebook as a fogging solution. I folded a tissue neatly and placed it along the top of my mask. It took some trial and error to get it right without blocking my nostrils. The space was minimized along with the fogging, but the tissue did get damp over time. I suggest if you use this method, replace your tissue often!


    Dr. Daniel Heiferman, a neurosurgeon in Memphis, tweeted a tip that he uses in the operating room to keep his loupes from fogging during surgery. A BANDAID! He realized that a bandaid placed on the bridge of the nose eliminated the fogging and provided protection against irritation. Simply secure the bandaid with the cotton part on the bridge of your nose, with half the sticky part on the mask and the other half on your face. This completely eradicates the gap between your face and the mask, which shifts the escaping air to a different gap, eliminating fogging completely! The bandaid is also textured enough to prevent your glasses from sliding down the bridge of your nose. After trying all the other methods, this is the one that I recommend!


    There are some other suggestions out there that I did not get to try. Some of these include anti-fog wipes and sprays, using random household items (raw potato, toothpaste, or shaving cream) on your lenses to prevent fogging. Before doing any of these, ensure that the special coatings on your glasses will not be affected!


    It does not sound like we will be out of masks anytime soon, so if you have fogging issues, give these methods a shot! Stay safe out there and wash your hands!


    Lindie Aragon is a Chemist for the City of Westminster’s Big Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility.


  • 22 Nov 2020 4:32 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Before Covid-19 changed our lives as we know it, I personally had only been exposed to the world of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) through some conference presentations here and there. With the state-wide WBE work this year to monitor the levels of SARS-CoV-2 in the front range population, I thought it would be interesting to look at the different ways WBE is used to protect our communities.


    Collective drug use in a community

    WBE provides a way to look at drug use in areas, both licit and illicit, and has the benefit of avoiding surveys and the sampling bias that comes with general studies. Spatial snapshots of a location's wastewater help us to understand geographical trends in drug consumption. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction analyzed the wastewater of 70 European cities in 2019 to discover geographical trends and patterns of cocaine, 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (also known as MDMA, Ecstasy, or Molly to name a few), amphetamine and methamphetamine. Data and findings can be found here.


    Analyzing WBE data over time gives us an idea of how drug use in a location is affected by outside factors. A study in the state of Washington looked to analyze the impact that legalization of cannabis had on the state's rate of usage. To evaluate cannabis use, the study measured wastewater concentrations of the byproduct of the active compound in cannabis. The wastewater pointed to a doubling in consumption over the 3-year period of testing. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14641


    Population and Health Behavior

    Wastewater provides us with so much information about ourselves. A study in Australia during 2016 looked at wastewater for a range of diet, drug, pharmaceutical, and lifestyle biomarkers.   These markers were compared to the population's social, demographic, and economic properties. Some findings include higher use of the opioid-based pain reliever tramadol  in areas with more physical laborers. Higher antidepressant use and lower levels of dietary fiber were found in less educated areas. .  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1910242116


    Virus monitoring/eradication

    WBE provides us with a way to monitor the spread and emergence of viruses in an environment. Polio is an example of a virus that can be closely monitored with a high-quality WBE surveillance system to avoid wild-type polio from spreading in areas. A study performed between 2010 and 2013 explains how two sewage plants in Japan monitored trace polioviruses and how this surveillance is key in controlling polio’s spread. https://doi.org/10.1128/aem.03575-14  


    WBE is being used worldwide to gather information to complement health agencies and epidemiologists in our fight against SARS-CoV-2. By providing a total account of increasing and decreasing levels of the virus, the potential for WBE to help with the current pandemic is promising. The water research foundation provides more information regarding the numerous efforts across the United States https://www.waterrf.org/. For more information about the Colorado Front Range WBE program, please reach out to CDPHE’s Communications Manager – MaryAnn Nason at maryann.nason@state.co.us.


    Danny McCausland is an Analyst II at the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District. He has 7 years experience working in the water quality field. 

     

    References

    Burgard, D. A., Williams, J., Westerman, D., Rushing, R., Carpenter, R., LaRock, A., Sadetsky, J., Clarke, J., Fryhle, H., Pellman, M., & Banta‐Green, C. J. (2019). Using wastewater‐based analysis to monitor the effects of legalized retail sales on cannabis consumption in Washington State, USA. Addiction, 114(9), 1582–1590. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14641


    Choi, P. M., Tscharke, B., Samanipour, S., Hall, W. D., Gartner, C. E., Mueller, J. F., Thomas, K. V., & O’Brien, J. W. (2019). Social, demographic, and economic correlates of food and chemical consumption measured by wastewater-based epidemiology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(43), 21864–21873. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1910242116


    European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2020, March 12). Wastewater analysis and drugs: A European multi-city study. https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/2757/POD_Wastewater%20analysis_update2020.pdf


    Nakamura, T., Hamasaki, M., Yoshitomi, H., Ishibashi, T., Yoshiyama, C., Maeda, E., Sera, N., & Yoshida, H. (2015). Environmental Surveillance of Poliovirus in Sewage Water around the Introduction Period for Inactivated Polio Vaccine in Japan. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81(5), 1859–1864. https://doi.org/10.1128/aem.03575-14



  • 19 Oct 2020 7:56 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    October is National Energy Action Month, a time to raise awareness of energy sustainability and the important role you can provide to help ensure a healthier future for everyone. Whether you realize it or not, it requires a lot of energy to provide clean water to your community. According to the EPA, "[for] many municipal governments, drinking water and wastewater plants typically are the largest energy consumers, often accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed. Overall, drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately 2 percent of energy use in the United States, adding over 45 million tons of greenhouse gases annually." 


    Below are some fast facts on drinking water and wastewater utility energy as covered in the EPA’s Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities (PDF).

    • Water and wastewater industries account for an estimated 75 billion kWh of overall U.S. electricity demand.
    • Drinking water and wastewater systems in the U.S. spend about $4 billion a year on energy to pump, treat, deliver, collect, and clean water.
    • Energy efficiency investments often have outstanding rates of return and can reduce costs at a facility by 5%, 10%, 25%, or more.
    • Energy costs for water and wastewater can be 1/3 of a municipality's total energy bill.
    • If drinking water and wastewater systems reduce energy use by just 10% through cost-effective investments, collectively they could save approximately $400 million and 5 billion kWh annually.

    Overall, there are many benefits to energy conservation. Not only can it be eco-friendly, but also can help reduce cost on expensive bills. There are many actions that can be taken both in the workplace and at home to create energy efficiency. If you want to learn more about energy efficiency for water utilities, the EPA’s website has a great section that covers all of the different ways to cut energy usage and cost. Let’s do our part and help create a more energy efficient future.


    Website links:

    https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-water-infrastructure/energy-efficiency-water-utilities

    https://www.energy.gov/eere/office-energy-efficiency-renewable-energy

    https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P1003Y1G.PDF?Dockey=P1003Y1G.PDF

    https://blog.epa.gov/2015/10/29/dont-be-scared-to-save-water-and-energy-with-watersense/


    Michael Hendricks is the Water Quality Supervisor for GEI Consultants He has worked in the industry since 2014 and holds a BA in Biological Science from Colorado State University.

  • 22 Sep 2020 1:08 PM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    This year has brought challenges to us all, and in the era of a 24-hour news cycle and social media, it can be difficult to siphon through the negatives to find some positive news. There are still, however, uplifting and exciting efforts being put forth daily, so to kick off Fall 2020 I have put together a short list of some positive stories pertaining to water, or water byproducts, that might otherwise go under the radar.

    • 1)     You may have heard that many of the beautiful, biodiversity-filled, tourist attractions known as coral reefs are in danger of disappearing entirely over the course of the next decade. Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a list of positive news? Luckily, Rolex (yes that Rolex) has helped support individuals taking on major challenges to help improve our natural world. One of those individuals is explorer and marine biologist Emma Camp. Corals typically thrive in clean waters that boast little sediment and nutrients, along with a stable temperature and lots of oxygen. Many of these habitats are being threatened by climate change and acidifying oceans, but recently Camp has observed corals with the ability to survive in conditions that are more extreme than what is expected in the next few centuries. These species of corals survive, and thrive, in murky waters of mangroves and show resiliency to the conditions many of the world’s reefs are experiencing. Camp goes on to describe similar locations, or “hotspots of resilience,” found in the Great Barrier Reef. While reversing the destruction of the oceans that humanity has caused is of great importance, it is also important to learn how these corals survive, and use the resiliency of nature itself to help rebuild what has been lost. Her research, focused on the behavior and genetics of these hearty corals, will ideally be used to help repopulate reefs impacted by changing conditions, allowing them to maintain vibrant and diverse ecosystems throughout the world. Rolex has this story, and numerous others focused on meaningful change on their Awards Website. If only there were more efforts being put towards carbon capture and reversing the effects climate change have had on the oceans themselves…

    • 2)     ...Never fear, aquatic plants are to the rescue! We all know how effective trees are with respect to carbon capture, but that carbon can also quickly be released (see wildfire examples across the country). What if that carbon could be sequestered for millennia or longer at the bottom of the ocean? A startup in Maine, Running Tide, is hoping for just that. Originally a shellfish farming company, they are shifting their sights towards a radical kelp project to help take some pressure off of forests on land. Offsets will be necessary if we are to change the course of our planet’s future, and a 2019 study showed that using just a small fraction of California coastal waters to grow kelp could fully offset the entire state’s agricultural emissions. Shopify, a tech company investing in other companies focused on sustainability solutions, believes this could have a huge impact on the environment and put Running Tide on their list of investments. Kelp farms typically require a good bit of attention to maintain quality and ability to harvest, but in this case the kelp would be grown specifically to sink carbon to the depths and once up and running, would require little effort to maintain. Targeted ocean currents with the right nutrients and biodegradable buoys that will allow the farms to sink after a certain amount of time, are the basis of this idea. More research will be done farther into the ocean to see how the farms perform, but the hope is that they provide long-term carbon removal that will become oil or sediment at the bottom of the ocean over the course of centuries. Given the rate at which carbon has been thrust into the atmosphere over the past few decades, this seems like a logical, effective solution nature has given us to combat climate change and our carbon footprint. The whole story, written by Adele Peters, can be found at the Fast Company website.


    • 3)     The most valuable writer in this blog post, Adele Peters, continues her quest for ocean plant awareness with another hopeful article on seaweed. This article also has a bit to do with carbon capture, but far more to do with reducing emissions. Another startup with a brilliant idea, Volta Greentech, is about to begin commercial production of a red variety of seaweed.  Asparagopsis taxiformis can help reduce emissions in a far more unique way than you might think, by feeding it to cows. According to some estimates, cows produce the equivalent of 4-5% of total greenhouse gas emissions simply by belching methane. Researchers at UC Davis found that cattle feed consisting of just 1% seaweed reduced methane emissions by 60%, and tests in Australia noted that increasing the seaweed to 2% of the feed resulted in 99% reduced emissions! Production would ideally begin later this year, and the facility itself would use CO2 from carbon capture technology at polluting companies to feed the seaweed. This would provide an outlet for some captured carbon to be recycled into a process that would further limit emissions once fed to the cattle. While burgers and steaks still come at a cost environmentally, this option might at least be effective at reducing the equivalent of the airline industry’s emissions each year. Get the full details of their sustainability effort through this link to the Fast Company website.


    • 4)     Sticking with the apparently ocean based vibe of this blog post, I bring you a statistic about fish waste in the UK: 492,020 tons of it. Rebecca Smithers of The Guardian summarizes a brilliant idea from University of Sussex graduate designer Lucy Hughes. Hughes tackles the issue of single use plastic waste alongside the large volume of waste that processing fish produces. She created a biodegradable plastic alternative, MarinaTex, that could be used in place of single-use plastic products. Through her research she found that fish skins and scales were a great source for a plastic alternative. Combining fish scale proteins and red algae created bonds that could be formed into sheets that look and feel very similar to plastic. The product appears as though it could be stronger and safer than oil-based plastics, while also having the ability to break down in soil in 4-6 weeks. Hughes determined that the waste from one Atlantic cod could produce 1,400 bags of MarinaTex. Now she has the opportunity to win £30,000 in the final leg of her James Dyson award nomination, and help prevent single-use plastics from continuously polluting landfills and the environment. Guess I’ll have to switch to shrimp ramen to make sure my chicken flavor doesn’t taste fishy… Glean more information and links via The Guardian website.

    Honorable mentions:

    •        If you’re into "hacking" and gardening, check out this article by Andy Corbley about researchers modifying plant proteins and enzymes to produce more yield with less water here.
    •       The Ocean Cleanup has upped it’s game to preventing plastic pollution from even making it to the oceans, by intercepting plastic in rivers! Keep up to date with their progress since deploying their first system in 2019 on The Ocean Cleanup website.


    This blog was written by Tyler Eldridge, a Wastewater Laboratory Coordinator for the City of Greeley, and volunteers with RMWQAA as the main contact for website related issues. He has 3 years of experience in the industry and holds a BA in Biological Science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.


    Full website links:


    -https://www.rolex.org/rolex-awards/environment/emma-camp

    -https://www.fastcompany.com/90548820/forget-planting-trees-this-company-is-making-carbon-offsets-by-putting-seaweed-on-the-ocean-floor

    -https://www.fastcompany.com/90510673/this-factory-is-growing-a-new-kind-of-food-for-cows-a-seaweed-that-reduces-their-burps

    -https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/19/scaling-back-graduate-invents-plastic-alternative-from-fish-waste

    -https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/scientists-hack-photosynthesis-boosting-plant-yields-with-less-water/

    -https://theoceancleanup.com/


  • 26 Aug 2020 8:38 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    I know this topic is on everyone’s mind as you walk outside to see and smell the smokey wildfires burning around the state. With the devastation of wildfires burning precious land and polluting the air, comes the aftermath of the detrimental effects on water quality in the watershed. After the fire burns, vegetation is burned up leaving ash and nutrients to flow into the source water.


    Immediate impacts may occur as soot and ash increase solids loading, adding to the possibility of destruction to source water infrastructure and alterations to the physical watershed. It’s the aftermath and long-term effects on the ecology of the fire scorched landscape that will be costly. Runoff from burned areas contain elevated nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus with higher levels of organic carbon, turbidity, sediment and heavy metals which may have significant effects on the chemistry of the receiving water.  Higher nutrient loads from runoff could have an effect the on the water treatment process, which in turn, could create algae blooms in the storage reservoirs and lakes. Increases in organic carbon and turbidity will have a major impact on treatment abilities with higher chemical cost. Elevated carbon levels in raw water can result in higher total organic carbon (TOC) and turbidity in the distribution and result in higher disinfection byproduct (DBP) levels. Already low maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for DBPs, could cause non-compliance issues very easily with contaminated source water. There are also issues with pH adjustments and swings in alkalinity which need to be closely monitored in the water quality and treatment process.


    Severe occurrences of heavy rainfall after a burn will cause mudslides, severe erosion and large debris running off into water delivery systems. These occurrences can make the water unusable or inaccessible, requiring a quick decision for switching to alternative water sources. Depending on the location of the fire, there also poses a threat of higher concentrations of contaminating heavy metals. In Colorado, there are possibilities of historic mining areas containing large amounts of iron, manganese, sulfates or even fire retardant that will runoff into the water. Even more severe is increased levels of naturally occurring mercury in the soil that could contaminate the source water and even elevate levels of mercury in native fish.


    Be smart, prepared, and develop a plan to monitor when a wildfire occurs in your watershed. Some things to consider: What analytes are of concern, what locations are impacted, upstream comparison data, long term solutions, and how to prevent excessive nutrient ash runoff or mudslides with debris.


    Now is the time to create an emergency plan or update a previous plan that suites your water system. Some ideas to think about when planning for the future:

    -Put a plan in place to fund mitigation of wildfire destruction and spread. Support local forest services or the Unites States Forest Service (USFS) to help remove mountain pine beetle destroyed trees that act as fuel for these fires. They can also utilize GIS- based decision support tools which can manage sensitive areas and create buffer strips.

    -Plan ways to adapt to problems with redundancy in infrastructure and alternative canals or source water. Consider adjustable intake locations for canals and reservoirs due to broken trees, debris, and sedimentation causing blockages at intakes. Create redundancy with surrounding cities water sources and water towers in case of disruption of service.

    -Plan for increased water treatment cost in chemicals with elevated turbidity levels and sediment with more monitoring for water quality issues throughout the system. Have an internal troubleshooting guide.

    -Review other utilities case studies on wildfire management occurrences and possible solutions.


    If you are interested in preventing wildfire and water treatment, I recommend getting involved with the Watershed Wildfire Protection Group. They consist of a broad range of utilities and companies that have great ideas to solutions with a proactive stance of protecting watersheds from wildfires.


    I don’t mean to bring up another harsh issue as we are all dealing with COVID effects but now is the time to make proactive plans, write grants for forest mitigation, and prepare for possible catastrophic events with climate change making these events even worse or more frequent. To end on a positive note….forest fires also help in the natural cycle of forest growth, replenishment, and help new plants grow!


    John Winterton is the Laboratory Supervisor at the City of Northglenn.


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