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Monthly Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

  • 21 Oct 2018 9:53 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    This is an excerpt from an article published by the Associated Press


    Click the link for access to the full article:




    This excerpt was taken from www.USnews.com and reprinted under the Fair Use act of 2007


    Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com


    Water conservationists and a Native American women's advocacy group believe they've found a potential solution to a massive, decades-old underground plume of toxic chromium that likely has spread from property owned by Los Alamos National Laboratory to San Ildefonso Pueblo land.


    The key ingredient? Mushrooms. They want the lab to give their fungi-based idea a try.


    At an upcoming meeting, the nonprofit Tewa Women United and Communities for Clean Water will try to convince lab officials to start a pilot project to test whether a bioremediation technique based on mushrooms could help decontaminate the aquifer of hexavalent chromium that lab workers over several decades dumped into a canyon from cooling towers at an old power plant.


    It may sound far-fetched, but advocates say the technique, called mycoremediation, could be healthier for the environment and less costly than efforts the lab is currently using to treat contaminated water pumped out of the plume. The lab is testing other remediation methods as well, such as pumping molasses and bacteria into the plume to convert the highly carcinogenic chromium-6 to chromium-3, which is far less toxic.


    "Conventional remediation strategies are inherently harmful to a very fragile ecosystem," said Kaitlin Bryson, an Albuquerque-based artist and organic farmer who is helping spearhead the mycoremediation proposal.  Bryson, 30, said the idea is in its infancy, and she's not sure exactly how many mushrooms it would take to completely restore the aquifer.  "I really can't conceptualize," she said.  The group plans to pitch the idea during a public hearing in Los Alamos in early November on a state discharge permit for the lab. The groups contend the permit was approved three years ago without public input.  "It's really not a crazy concept," said Peter McCoy, a Portland, Oregon-based mycologist, a scientist who studies fungus, who is helping Bryson with the proposal.


    McCoy has experimented with mushrooms for about 17 years and has been leading smaller-scale mycoremediation projects for four years. The results can be significant, he said.  The technique uses mycelium, the vegetative body of a fungus, which acts as a magnet to extract heavy metals from soil and water.  The first step is to grow molds in a material such as agar, a jelly-like substance found in some types of seaweed. The substance is then inoculated with mycelium and grows. The end result is a mycelial "brick" or "bead," which is used to strip away toxic materials, advocates say.


    The method has been used to break down diesel fuel, harmful bacteria and even diapers, according to studies by Paul Stamets, a mycologist who has secured an Environmental Protection Agency contract to research mycoremediation.


    The strategy also has been used in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where Chevron is accused of dumping billions of gallons of oil-drilling waste into unlined pits.  McCoy sees the chromium plume project as an opportunity to advance the science. "If we are able to move forward, this would be a great proving ground for this technology," he said.  "It's really a no-brainer," said Bryson.


    She led a mycoremediation workshop in April and again earlier this month at the Regeneration Fest: Youth Water Protectors Gathering in Española, where participants explored ways to care for their communities, land and water. She hopes to hold similar workshops in the future.  Bryson envisions a community remediation effort in which homemade mycelial bricks or beads are placed at a contamination site as part of an art-like installation.


    Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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





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

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

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


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


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


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



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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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



    Construction of the Denver-Hudson Canal


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



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


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


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


    Birding at Barr Lake



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


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

    1890’s   –Oasis Reservoir used for Recreation & Irrigation

    1900’s   –Doubled in Size and Renamed by FRICO

    1950’s   –Water Quality at its Worst

    1964     –Metro Wastewater Upgraded and Relocated

    1978     –Barr Lake State Park & Wildlife Refuge

    1994     –FRICO Started Monitoring Regularly

    2002     –303(d) Listed for High pH

    2004     –Domestic Water Supply Use Added

    2006     –20th Year for Nesting Bald Eagles

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

     Sunset at Barr Lake by Bernie Ernie Jr.


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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