Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
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.

 

At WETLAB, we try to do everything we can to make things easier for our clients environmental testing needs.  One of the biggest ways we do that is with wide-reaching courier routes that run weekly.  Each of our three offices (Sparks, Elko, and Las Vegas) has their own routes, which makes it easier for clients all over Nevada and parts of California to have their samples analyzed in a timely manner.

For a sample of how far WETLAB travels to better serve you, we’ll take a look at the basic weekly schedule of pick-ups from the Sparks office.

Monday: Herlong, Portola, Grass Valley, North Lake Tahoe

Tuesday: Kirkwood, South Lake Tahoe, East Shore, Yerington

Wednesday: Carson City, Bridgeport, Topaz Lake

Thursday: South Shore, Mt. Rose, North Shore, Winnemucca, Round Mountain, Austin

Friday: Winnemucca upon request

If scheduled ahead of time, WETLAB can also provide basic sampling and off-route pick-up!  And when a storm comes, we make a special storm water route available.

 

Call us today at (775) 355-0202 to see how WETLAB can make your sample pick-up and delivery easier.

Lake Tahoe snowmelt floods water sampling labs, hydrologists with work

A web of agencies and scientists work day and night each spring to monitor the aquatic health of one of North America’s most majestic alpine lakes

In the world of water quality monitoring, there is perhaps no more majestic setting or no more intense industry epicenter than Lake Tahoe.

Twenty-two miles long, more than 1,500 feet deep — and surrounded by vacation homes, ski resorts, casinos and lodges — Tahoe is the perfect mix of jaw-dropping, crystalline natural treasure and highway- and home-ringed recreation Mecca that has fueled an intense, long-term web of water quality monitoring programs to gauge the lake’s aquatic health.

Over the span of more than 50 years, scientists have deployed all throughout the year, all across the lake, to gauge sediment loading, nutrient concentrations and water clarity.

But one time of year — when the mountains of snow that ring that lake begin to slowly succumb to the spring’s long days and warm sun — brings of a flood of water quality monitoring work to sampling labs, scientists, non-profit groups and regulators.

The few weeks when spring runoff intensifies — swelling streams and filling the lake with fresh snowmelt — is one of the most critical annual cycles for the clarity of the lake. It is then that agencies can gauge if BMPs (Best Management Practices) are filtering road grime and sediment from construction sites, driveways and roadways. It is then that the effects of the millions of dollars that are regularly invested in catch basins, filtration ponds, and stream and wetland restoration are calculated.

Hydrologists, volunteers and laboratories are flooded with work, literally working day and night to pinpoint the effect of stormwater drainage on one of the world’s most studied bodies of water.

“If [runoff peaks] at 12 o’ clock at night on Christmas day, you go out a monitor then because you don’t want to miss that. Often you are out there in the middle of the night or on weekends,” said John Reuter, associate director of U.C. Davis’s Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

While the waters of Lake Tahoe have been monitored since 1958, agencies have only recently been examining the precise effects of stormwater drainage on Lake Tahoe’s water quality. In 2003, in conjunction with the EPA-mandated Total Maximum Daily Load program, agencies began sampling 16 stormwater sites around the lake. The results confirmed that 70 percent of the fine particles that end up clouding Lake Tahoe’s clarity are coming from urban sites.

Lake Tahoe’s three pollutants of concern — Phosphorous, Nitrogen and fine sediment — are tested and gauged by agency and private labs in the region. Phosphorous and nitrogen stimulate algae growth in the lake, which clouds the lake’s clarity, and sediment that is five times less thick than a human hair, gets suspended in the water, also impairing Tahoe’s famed crystalline waters.

Laboratories like nearby Sparks, Nev.-based WETLAB brace for the flood of laboratory work that each spring runoff season brings.

WETLAB’s state-of-the-art lab was built in 2006 to accommodate the increasing monitoring workload of water analysis from nearby agencies, mining regulators and environmental non-profits. The lab’s business, built on all types of regulatory compliance and environmental restoration work — from Lake Tahoe water testing to environmental testing around mining sites — has boomed in the past year. WETLAB has grown revenue by nearly 30 percent in the last year and hired over 11 full- and part-time employees.

“WETLAB braces for spring each year, knowing that snowmelt means our busy season is here,” said Michelle Sherven, president of WETLAB. “We have even added services, like a dedicated shuttle between our lab and Lake Tahoe, to help busy agencies and non-profit complete important water tests on time during the tense runoff months.”

The precision of the water quality testing is incredibly important as the results guide heavy federal, state and local investment in the environmental future of the lake.

Some of the fixes to the stormwater pollutants that run off of roads, driveways and roofs are simple and common — street sweeping to catch sediment before it is washed into the lake or filtration basins. But when dealing with very fine sediment and minute particles that wash swiftly from shoreline urban areas into the lake, some unique, cutting-edge solutions to Lake Tahoe’s stormwater pollution are being considered, said Reuter.

Ideas like a “pump-and-treat” system — where stormwater is pumped uphill to a man-made filtration area or a natural watershed where the sediment can slowly filter out of the water before it reaches the lake — are being talked about.

Whatever direction the efforts to maintain and restore Lake Tahoe’s famed water clarity take, springtime will continue to be a critical season for scientists, regulators and laboratories to gauge the condition of one of the nation’s most treasured natural wonders.

One of the national epicenters of water quality monitoring, just minutes away from the WETLAB offices in Sparks, Nevada, is gearing up for even more analysis. Lake Tahoe is known around the world as one of the world’s clearest large alpine lakes — and federal, state and local efforts are all concentrated on restoring and preserving the lake’s astounding clarity intact.

In late November, the regional water board that governs the Tahoe Basin approved an aggressive plan to reduce the amount of fine sediment, phosphorous, and nitrogen entering the lake, which are some of the main culprits behind the lake’s steady clarity decline. Over the next 15 years, up to $1.5 billion could be spent to increase the lake’s clarity from last year’s 68-foot depth, to 80 feet, according to news reports.

For agencies and restoration groups around the lake, the new water quality targets mean more water quality analysis to determine which restoration projects are working and how much sediment, phosphorous, and nitrogen is entering the lake. That analysis and lab work is WETLAB’s specialty. Given the increase in water quality monitoring occurring in Tahoe, WETLAB is reminding agencies and non-profits around Lake Tahoe of WETLAB’s convenient regular sample pick-up and material drop-off service to Lake Tahoe.

A WETLAB employee regularly travels to Lake Tahoe to collect water samples and bring them back to WETLAB’s state-of-the-art Sparks, Nevada laboratory for careful testing and analysis.

A WETLAB representative travels to South Lake Tahoe every Tuesday, and to North Lake Tahoe every Thursday for sample collection and instrument drop-off. WETLAB is also willing to work out other collection days for new and existing clients if possible.

WETLAB is proud to be part of the restoration of one of the nation’s natural wonders.