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 Develops Best Practices for Lithium Brine Analysis

WETLAB is an analytical facility, so our area of expertise lies in our ability to achieve accurate results with relatively low reporting limits for difficult matrices such as brine solutions. In the past year, WETLAB has seen an increase in the submission of brine solutions for lithium analysis. WETLAB partners with consulting firms, soils, and geochemistry laboratories to provide a complete and precise set of data, with each team contributing from their strengths. Through analysis we’ve gained valuable knowledge and experience and have developed best practices to best analyze this difficult matrix.

As far as analytical difficulties with this matrix, there are several:

  • Li is a very light element. This precludes it from some testing methods outright (such as XRF/XRD).
  • When Li is in a matrix with a large number of heavier elements, it tends to be pushed around and selectively excluded due to its low mass. This provides challenges when using Mass Spectrometry.
  • A brine matrix also has the potential for much greater interferences regardless of method used.
Li Brine Testing

Lab Testing via Ion Chromatography

At WETLAB, we have handled many Li Brine solutions and extracts, which has given us a chance to gain experience and fine tune our methodologies to meet our clients’ needs. By using different phase-testing and isolation techniques, we are able to provide a good overall picture of the complete sample in situ. We have often tested the solid, aqueous, and slurry components individually from single samples to provide a fuller understanding of the mineralogy present.

Our low reporting limits allow us to complete the analytical process with a smaller initial sample size which saves time and cost when it comes to extractions and shipping. We are also able to do larger dilutions to eliminate or reduce interferences while further reducing native sample consumption.

We have the use of a full laboratory at our disposal, with staff experienced with difficult matrices and samples with high potential for interference. This allows us to provide other analytes with good accuracy and relatively low reporting limits. The complete profile can allow field specialists to determine the appropriate steps to drive their operation with less guess-work. For instance, we were able to provide quick and meaningful results for Iron and Phosphate for a client who suspected their Lithium was in a Lithium Ferrous Phosphate.

We are always happy to field any analytical-related questions at any time.


WETLAB Earns Women’s Business Enterprise Council Certification

WETLAB has been recognized for being a women’s business enterprise (WBE). The certification was awarded on February 22 by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council – West, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

Michelle Sherven

WETLAB President Michelle Sherven


“Having an association with WBE recognizes the growing role that women are playing in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) industries and careers,” says Michelle Sherven, owner of WETLAB. “The environmental testing field in particular is male-dominated, so we are proud to offer exceptional testing services to this industry as a woman-owned company.”

WBENC’s national standard of certification is a meticulous process, including an in-depth review of the business and a site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm that the business is at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women. According to WBENC: by including women-owned businesses among their vendors, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier/vendor diversity programs.

About WBENC: The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC is a resource for the thousands of U.S. companies and government agencies that rely on WBENC’s certification as an integral part of their vendor diversity programs. www.wbenc.org


Water Runoff Testing

After a heavy rainfall, water runs off of non-absorbent surfaces like roads, driveways, and parking lots. While the rain pours off the pavement, it carries away all of the pollutants with it, including oil, gasoline, and sediment. These pollutants flow with the water into natural rivers, streams, and lakes. However, it’s not only the larger waterways that are affected; drainage ditches and storm water retention ponds become polluted as well. This runoff is referred to as nonpoint source pollution because it does not stem from one specific source such as an industrial facility. Due to the lack of rainfall in Nevada’s arid climate, several months of pollutants can be released during one large storm event. Characterizing the levels of pollutants in water runoff is an important task in protecting our water sources.

WETLAB has developed specialized testing suites for characterizing this runoff. These tests include turbidity, to measure the amount of sediment that has escaped the roadways, and metal levels, including lead and mercury. To find out how WETLAB can help you characterize water runoff, call us at (775) 355-0202 and talk to one of our talented project managers.

To find out more about nonpoint source pollution, visit the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) website here.


Veterans Guest House 2016

Andy Smith, our Quality Assurance Manager, helped jump start WETLAB’s involvement with local non-profit organization the Veterans Guest House.  Last year, we explored several staff members stories about why they support Veterans Guest House, which you can find here.  

Hello, as many of you remember WETLAB decided to “adopt” the Veterans Guest House (VGH) as a company-wide fundraising event in 2015. You may also remember how incredibly successful that was thanks to the incredible donations that came in from our friends, families, and of course our clients. We did so well that it put us on the VGH radar and I was recently appointed to the board of directors of the VGH. That is something I’m very proud of, but I know it wouldn’t have happened without a lot of support from all of you. A big part of the duties of a VGH board member is to actively participate in the yearly VGH Radiothon, the biggest fundraising event of the year for the house. At the radiothon this year I was able to spend a few hours at the event meeting some great people, donors and veterans alike, while getting an insider’s view of a really big event. It was a long day but quite frankly one heck of a lot more fun than I expected. We were fortunate to have some other WETLAB staffers work the phone bank for a couple hours and I pretty sure they had a great time as well.

Our wonderful WETLAB volunteers manning the phones at the 2016 VGH Radiothon.

Our wonderful WETLAB volunteers manning the phones at the 2016 VGH Radiothon.


Overall the VGH raised over $65,000!!!

What a great event, I urge you to join us next year.

Visit www.VeteransGuestHouse.org for more information

Thank you,

Andy Smith


Life of a Sample: Part 3, Distillation and Digestion

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

The next step for a sample at WETLAB is distillation and digestion, which takes two days.  Lab technicians start with organizing samples by hold times and due dates, ensuring timely and accurate analysis. Then, we look through historical data to determine if any dilutions are usually needed.  All samples are then organized, the sample preparation log is meticulously filled out, and reagents and standard solutions are gathered.  Then the distillation or digestion block is heated, and once the block reaches the correct temperature, the samples are added.  The process is carefully watched, making sure that no samples boil over, and that the bubbles don’t stop during distillation.  Once the timer stops, the samples are removed from the hot block and placed in clean specimen cups.  Up next, samples move to analysis.

Digestion Rack

Samples being prepared for metals digestion.

Distillation Block

Hot blocks distilling samples.



Life of a Sample: Part 2, Sample Preparation

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

The next step for a sample at WETLAB is sample preparation.  This process takes one day, and involves several different processes and people.  During the first step, all samples undergo the same log-in and review procedure, and sample prep is where the tests begin to diverge dependent on which analyses are required.  Some samples, including many soil tests, require the compositing of several different samples into one representative batch.  For many tests, different filtered and unfiltered aliquots are needed; these pieces are split up into different bottles and preserved as needed.  Once properly split, the samples are released to the lab.

Before the samples reach the lab, laboratory scientists clean and prep the necessary equipment, and lab technicians prepare batches of samples based on the tests logged in during step one.  Some tests are ready to preform immediately, and those move on to step three.  For others, extractions are needed.  This includes TCLP (toxic characteristic leaching procedure), cyanide extraction, MWMP (meteoric water mobility procedure), and humidity cells.   Some of these extractions take more than one day, like humidity cells, which can continue for a few months up to several years.  Ensuring proper preparations are preformed allows the rest of the analysis to run smoothly.  After the filtering and extractions are completed, it’s time for step three: distillation and digestion.

A portion of the humidity cells currently being processed in the geochemistry lab.

A portion of the humidity cells currently being processed in the geochemistry lab.


MWMP extractions.

MWMP extractions.


Life of Sample: Step 1, Receiving

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes at WETLAB?  You drop off a sample, then ten days later, you receive results.  Simple, right?  Well, there is a lot that happens from the time a cooler full of samples comes in the door to the time that you get results.  In this six-part series, Life of a Sample, you will get an inside look at what happens as a sample flows through the lab.  At WETLAB, we pride ourselves on the quality of our work, and the way that we handle your project exemplifies that. 

The first part of sample life begins before a specimen has ever been collected.  We begin with pre-project planning, which involves determining how WETLAB can make your project a reality.  Our stellar project managers work with you to figure out what you need done, and how we can make it happen.  This involves liaising with our lab manager, quality assurance manager, operations manager, and business development manager to ensure that we have the proper resources in place to preform all required and requested testing services.  Once a project scope has been discussed and agreed to, you gather your samples and bring them to lab (or have one of our friendly couriers pick them up).  When the samples arrive in the lab, the real fun starts.

A sample is received, along with a detailed Chain of Custody, by one of our knowledgeable client service representatives.  The sample is then logged in and checked for any initial errors in preservation, temperature, etc.  After that, the samples undergo two levels of quality assurance and control before they ever reach the lab.  The first is primary entry into the laboratory management system.  Once the primary entry is done, the sample is split into the necessary sets, and preserved and/or filtered if needed.  When the samples are in the proper containers for analysis, a second set of eyes reviews them and the initial data entry to ensure accuracy.  After the secondary review, the samples are ready to be released to the lab to begin analysis.  This intensive initial receiving takes about four hours, ensuring plenty of time for the next five steps to occur.  Next up: Step 2, Sample Preparation.


Client Service Alcove

Client Services staff doing primary and secondary review of new samples.


Sample Recieving

Project Manager Hollie checking a sample against a COC to ensure initial accuracy.



Science Education with WETLAB

At WETLAB, we are often approached by members of the community who are interested in having one of talented scientists come talk to students about chemistry.  We try to oblige as much as we can, and this year, we were able to do two completely different presentations for different classes.

One of the thank you letters sent in by the students.

One of the thank you letters sent in by the students.

First up was Andy Smith, our esteemed Quality Assurance Manager, who performed four “chemistry magic” experiments for 2-5 year old students at the Goddard School.  The first experiment was a re-appearing ink sign.  The ink was phenolphthalein indicator on paper, and once the paper was sprayed with Windex (making it basic) the message “Chemistry Magic” appeared.  Next, he created a blueberry Kool-Aid drink that, due to an oxidation- reduction reaction, would turn from blue to colorless.  With a quick shake of the bottle, it would return to blue for a few minutes before the reaction completed again. Third, he changed the color of a Bunsen burner flame to blue (with copper sulfate), orange (with sodium chloride), green (barium chloride), and  brilliant red (with lithium sulfate).  Last, Andy crushed aluminum cans by boiling a small amount of water in them to create steam.  Once the steaming can is turned over in ice water, the instant cooling causes the cans to crush themselves!


Andy Smith helps to inspire some future scientists.


Andy shows Chemistry Magic!

The next was Ellen Messinger-Patton, Kat Langford, and Andrew Tobey, who showed a presentation on water purity to sixth graders.  In order to show that tap water is just as safe to drink as bottled water, the kids compared and contrasted three samples, including bottled water, tap water, and an untreated sample from the Truckee River.  They used odor, color, pH, metals concentration, and turbidity to determine which water sample was the cleanest.  At the end of the hour, bottled water and tap water were a tie, and many of the kids agreed to try to drink tap water now.  The WETLAB presenters also spent a small amount of time relaying the importance of conservation, and what our hydrologic system looks like in the Truckee Meadows.

Ellen and Kat

Ellen Messinger-Patton and Kat Langford begin water purity demonstration.

At WETLAB, we think that science education is incredibly important.  We are happy to foster the next generation of scientists, and show them that science is not only useful, but also really fun.


Revised Total Coliform Rule

The EPA revised the Total Coliform Rule (TCR) in 2013, but these changes need to be implemented soon. By April 1, 2016, all compliant public water systems will have to implement the revised TCR requirements. At WETLAB, we take a great interest in the new regulatory measures that affect our clients, and we decided to take a closer look at what the Revised Total Coliform Rule entails.

According to the EPA, the RTCR is intended to “protect public health by ensuring the integrity of the drinking water distribution system and monitoring for the presence of microbial contamination.” Which essentially means that the RTCR confirms what the TCR has already established since 1989, and then expands upon the initial rule. The RTCR requires that all public water systems (PWS) show that they meet the legal limit for E. coli through expanded required monitoring. The rule also goes on to specify what the actual frequency and timing of the required microbial testing is; which is based on the populations served by the PWS, the type of PWS, and what type of source water the PWS uses.

To find the exact requirements of the new rule, we highly suggest visiting the EPA’s page on the RTCR here. These changes do not have to be implemented until April 1, 2016, but it is crucial to have an accurate understanding of the new rule.

At WETLAB, we strive to provide our clients with the most accurate and up-to-date information available.  If you have any questions, about this rule or any other, please call us at (775) 355-0202. 

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