WETLAB Western Environmenal Testing Laboratory
Serving Nevada, California, Idaho and Wyoming
Sparks (775) 355-0202
Elko (775) 340-3173
Las Vegas (702) 475-8899
WETLAB BLOG
31
JUL
2017

Lessons From the Lab: Reporting Limits

In our blog posts Lessons From the Lab we answer frequently asked questions from clients.  Find all installments of Lessons From the Lab here

What is a Reporting Limit?

A Reporting Limit (RL) is defined as the smallest concentration of a chemical that can be reported by a laboratory. If a laboratory is unable to detect a chemical in a sample, it does not necessarily mean that the chemical is absent from the sample altogether. It could be that the chemical concentration in the sample is below the sensitivity of the testing instrument. Concentrations below the RL are reported as not detectable at the RL or “less than” the RL. The RL value is often defined be each specific laboratory, so it is not uncommon to come across different RL’s when testing the same compound. RL’s act as safety protocols that allow laboratories to efficiently communicate the different variables correlated with testing and analyzing samples from a wide variety of sources and factors. It is important to identify the limit of concern that the client has when testing their sample to ensure that the RL is less than the regulatory limit. That enables a laboratory to identify whether a concentration of the chemical in question is above the regulatory limit of concern.

28
MAY
2017

Snapshot Day 2017

Snapshot Day has become an annual WETLAB tradition.  We love getting out into nature and helping to inspire the next generation of scientists!  Jen Delany, one of our regular leaders for Snapshot Day, wrote the overview below. 

WETLAB Snapshot Day leaders Jen, Cory, and Vanessa.

WETLAB Snapshot Day leaders Jen, Cory, and Vanessa

On Friday May 12th 2017, WETLAB volunteered for Snapshot Day, which is coordinated by the Bureau of Water Quality Planning (NDEP). Snapshot Day occurs annually and is a one-day event where the Urban Truckee River portion of the watershed is sampled from the outlet at Lake Tahoe to its end at Pyramid Lake. That’s a total of 105 miles! Snapshot Day is an event that includes the community and education outreach; different businesses and organizations volunteer their time to teach students throughout the Washoe basin about conservation, environmental stewardship, and water quality.   In conjunction with NDEP, these small groups help create a larger picture to determine the health of our watershed over time and identify possible sources of pollution or other contamination. In addition, site facilitators conduct a stream walk for habitat assessment and sample collection for field and laboratory testing.

WETLAB’s sampling site along the Truckee River this year was Whites Creek on the Mountain View Montessori School campus. As facilitators, we had the opportunity to teach the 4th & 5th grade students about the importance of a healthy watershed, water quality, field testing methods, the water cycle and environmental sustainability. We had a unique opportunity this year to educate the students about the Atmospheric River and how the allocation of water is managed within our state. Students were engaged and incredibly helpful.

WETLAB staff enjoyed providing a hands-on learning experience to stimulate interest and stewardship. We hope to continue volunteering for this event year after year!

10
MAY
2017

Domestic Well Testing

WETLAB is a certified lab for drinking water testing in Nevada, with reciprocity for testing in California, Wyoming, and Idaho.  This means that when you send drinking water samples to WETLAB, we guarantee thorough, high-quality data that complies with regulatory standards.  We ensure that your sample is analyzed with up-to-date methods, performed with the precision and attention to detail that you require.  We analyze drinking water for regulated public water systems of all sizes and for private domestic wells.

Private domestic well owners face a unique set of circumstances not often realized by many people who utilize a community water system.  Well owners are responsible for ensuring their own water quality, which means regular water testing.  Your water can contain microscopic particulates and micro-organisms that you would be unable to detect with your naked eye.  The Environmental Protection Agency recommends testing your well regularly for several contaminants, including total coliform, pH, corrosion, nitrates, and metals.  If you experience any changes in water quality, such as rapid corrosion of pipes, undesirable tastes or smells, or increased scaly build-up, you may be interested in testing your water quality.

If you are interested in testing your private domestic well, reference this helpful guide from the UNR Cooperative Extension.  This guide will help you determine what drinking water parameters you may be interested in testing for, and what the critical limits for some contaminants are.  After you test your water, you can use this tool to help interpret your results.  Our friendly staff at WETLAB will be happy to assist you with any other questions you might have.

WETLAB provides a uniquely client-oriented lab experience that will ensure you obtain the quality lab results you seek.  Contact WETLAB at (775) 355-0202 to determine how we can help you.

25
APR
2017
Western Environmental Testing Laboratory (WETLAB)

Life of a Sample: Part 6, Reporting

This is the final installment of our ongoing series Life of a Sample, which explores what happens behind the scenes at WETLAB.  If you missed parts one through five, check them out here!

Our sample has now been received, prepped, distilled/ digested, analyzed, and entered.  The final, and terminal step, is reporting.  At this point, samples will have been validated, which means that QA/QC parameters have been checked to ensure they are within acceptable ranges.  These parameters include checking total versus dissolved solids, Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for drinking water, cation versus anion balances, and several others.  If any of these validation measures are outside of acceptable or expected limits, QA staff will determine if the sample needs to be re-analyzed.  If the sample passes the validation check, the data is ready to be reported to the client and regulating agency. Our client services staff ensures that clients are provided with a complete and accurate report of all results, and they understand what they have been provided with.  If the sample is being analyzed for compliance, such as drinking water for a public water system, the results are also provided to the regulating agency.  After reporting is finished, our sample’s life cycle is complete!

28
MAR
2017

Life of a Sample: Part 5, Data Entry

Our ongoing series Life of a Sample explores what happens behind the scenes at WETLAB.  If you missed parts one through four, check them out here!

At this point in our sample’s life cycle, the sample has been received, prepped, distilled/ digested, and analyzed.  The next step is entering all the collected data so that it can be transmitted to clients.  During this step, all the raw data is double-checked for inaccuracies and to ensure that all quality control samples have been included.  All data that can’t be migrated digitally is hand-entered by lab technicians, which is then checked for input errors such as incorrect dates or mis-typed numbers.  Catching these small errors is critical for ensuring data is reported correctly and on time for our clients.  This step is typically completed by the end of the day the sample finishes analysis.  After data entry, our sample will reach its terminal stage- reporting.

One of our talented lab technicians working to ensure quality data.

One of our talented lab technicians working to ensure quality data.

08
FEB
2017

Lithium Brine Testing- Part 2

Lithium Brine Testing- Methods for Analysis

In part one of this two part series, we provided an overview of WETLAB’s industry leading practices for Lithium Brine Testing. In part two, we will explore the strengths and limitations associated with each of the four testing methods, including ICP-OES- the preferred method of brine characterization.

WETLAB is an industry leader for lithium brine testing, and has excelled at characterization using ICP-OES. The four main methods of lithium brine testing each have its own strengths and limitations, which we explore below.

FAAS (Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy) involves a nebulized sample being passed through an acetylene flame and the light absorbance of a specific wavelength is then measured. Some of the potential limitations involved with FAAS characterization include low sensitivity, relatively low ionization temperature (3000°C), and only one analyte can be run at a time. Phosphates and Sulfates can also form flame-stable metal salts, which can complicate analysis.

GFAAS (Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy) involves the sample being heated in a graphite tube, and then atomized light is passed through the tube and measured at a specific wavelength. Due to heating programming and specificity, GFAAS analyses are typically done for one element at a time. GFAAS also has long sampling times, low temperature, and a limited dynamic range.

ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry) involves a nebulized sample being passed through high temperature plasma to ionize atoms, which are then isolated by their mass/charge ratio and detected directly. ICP-MS can be an excellent option for some clients, but some of the limitations for lithium analysis are that lithium is very light and can be excluded by heavier atoms, and analysis is typically limited to <0.2% dissolved solids, which means that it is not great for brines. Equipment and technician training costs are also very high with this method.

ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy) involves a nebulized sample being passed through high temperature plasma to ionize atoms, which release light at specific wavelengths. This is the preferred analytical technique for most metals in any matrix, and all metals in a complex matrix such as brine solutions. ICP-OES can handle a high amount of dissolved solids, has little chemical interference, and has robust sample introduction with high-energy plasma (~10,000°C) plasma. ICP-OES can also perform multi-element analysis, easily determining concentrations of other metals (K, Mg, B, etc).   Although ICP-OES is the preferred technique, it does have some limitations. These include moderate detection limits, typically lower than FAAS but higher than GFAAS and ICP-MS in a clean matrix. Complex matrices (such as brine) can often require dilutions from the other methods that may raise the overall Detection Limit. Also, spectral Interferences are common, but can typically be easily compensated to eliminate.

 

To determine how WETLAB can help you get the data you need with our industry leading practices, call WETLAB at (775) 355-0202 and speak with someone from our highly skilled customer and sample management team.

 

15
DEC
2016

WETLAB visits Lyon County Utilities

One of the ways WETLAB strives to better serve our clients is to understand what they do at every level.  We believe that by knowing what our clients do, we can help them reach their goals.  Hollie Timmons, Client Services Manager, and Michelle Sherven, WETLAB President visited long-time client Lyon County Utilities to better understand what they do, and what role WETLAB can play in their success.  To learn more about Lyon County Utilities, watch their client testimonial here.  Below, Hollie tells us about the visit.

On Cinco De Mayo, Michelle and I went to Lyon County Utilities to tour the wastewater treatment plant and one of their drinking water well houses. It was very interesting to see the whole process from start to finish! We started at the entry point where all the wastewater enters the plant and got to see the headworks building, where augers keep the pipes from getting clogged with hair and paper (among other things). This was the most disgusting part seeing all the hair wound up in a mass, which we were told gets all “roped-up” every so often and jams the augers, so someone has to get in there and remove all the sewage-soaked hair, which made me really appreciate my desk job! This building also had the strongest odor, which was a humid combination of raw sewage and a burning, overwhelming ammonia scent that was enough to make your eyes water! After that, we got to see the grit separator and their huge jet-engine aerators that pump air to all the tanks, where a combination of certain bacteria/microbes are added to the mixture. These bacteria do their job to break down the organic matter, and the solids settle to the bottom of the tanks to further decompose. Once this process is complete, the water is decanted/skimmed from the top and passes through a winding series of channels where the water is chlorinated for disinfection. This treated water then goes into a covered pond (to control algae growth) where it slowly seeps into the ground and is eventually returned to the ground water, completing the full circle of sewage life. The sludge (essentially the dead bacteria/microbes, killed off by the chlorination) is transferred to a drying bed, which some treatment plants then sell to farms for use as fertilizer. This treatment plant requires so much power to run, that they have the largest 12-cylinder generator I have ever seen, to ensure the plant operations do not come to a halt in the event of a power outage. After the tour was finished, we had lunch and then drove to one of their drinking water wells that takes in surface water from a nearby river/stream. The water is pumped through the well house, chlorinated, and piped to the nearby homes. While we were in the pump house, we experienced a sudden torrential hail-storm, which stranded us inside. We watched the marble-sized hail shred the leaves off nearby trees and pelt the building with a thunderous roar, falling like frozen bullets from the sky. It made for the perfect ending to a very fun day!!
Michelle and Hollie with our great clients from Lyon County Utilities

Michelle and Hollie with our great clients from Lyon County Utilities

 

Hollie is always striving to serve our clients better

Hollie is always striving to serve our clients better

28
NOV
2016

Life of a Sample: Part 4, Analysis

Our ongoing series Life of a Sample explores what happens behind the scenes at WETLAB.  If you missed part one, two, or three, check them out here!

The next step for our samples life cycle is analysis, which takes around four days, depending on the method.  Analysis starts with batch prepping the samples and preparing the instrument.  All daily required instrument maintenance is also preformed during this step.  All reagents and standards are logged here, and will later be used to monitor for QA/QC and determine accuracy.  When the batches and machines are prepped, the samples are run through analysis.  During this time, all quality control samples are monitored to ensure that the machines are functioning properly and there are no problems with analysis.  If any issues or unexpected results appear, analysts will trouble shoot all instruments and samples.  Samples that do not meet acceptance criteria are then re-run.  Potential problems can arise when samples have complicated matrices, which can cause equipment malfunctions. Once our samples are done in the analysis stage, it’s on to data entry.

A few of WETLAB's state of the art analysis instruments.

A few of WETLAB’s state of the art analysis instruments.

30
OCT
2016

Lithium Brine Testing Part 1

Matt Weikel, Inorganic Laboratory Manager, presented at a training hosted by Nevada Water Resources Association (NWRA) regarding WETLAB’s industry leading lithium brine testing methods. In this two part series, we will provide an overview of this presentation, and explore various methods of analysis.

Lithium Brine extraction and processing is gaining traction in Nevada. Lithium mining uses evaporation ponds, which produces a brine that lithium is then extracted from. With lithium brine gaining popularity, lithium brine testing has become an interesting and ever-changing topic.

WETLAB has always sought to develop products and practices that are in our clients’ best interest, which is why we have perfected the ideal method of lithium brine testing to meet various client needs.   Lithium brine can be characterized on four different pieces of equipment, including:

  1. FAAS (Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy)
  2. GFAAS (Graphite Furnace AAS)
  3. ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry)
  4. ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy)

WETLAB continues to excel at ICP-OES characterization, which is the preferred method of analysis for lithium brines.  Each of these methods has its own strengths and limitations, and is coupled with a digestion method to place the metals into solution. WETLAB commonly uses a two-acid digestion, HNO3 + HCl, which include EPA methods 200.2, 3010, and 3050. After the sample is digested, it is ready for analysis.  WETLAB commonly recommends using ICP-OES analysis, as it works best for the characteristics of brine, and obtaining other data metrics from the sample.

When you choose WETLAB for your lithium brine testing and characterization needs, you get a lot of benefits.   WETLAB prioritizes customer service and accurate analysis, and we’re always here to help you get what you want.   We ensure precise analysis through a robust QA/QC program coupled with several measures of internal data and accuracy checks.

Part two of this series, WETLAB Lithium Brine Testing, we will explore the strengths and limitations associated with each of the above testing methods, and determine why using WETLAB for ICP-OES analysis is ideal.

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