Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
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

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.

 

Natural resources are important for the livelihood and survival of populations.  One of the most important resources is water, and to be even more specific clean water.  The distribution of water serves many purposes, from aquatic ecosystems, domestic use to commercial and industrial use.  Clean and safe drinking water can be monitored through microbiological testing.  At WETLAB – Western Environmental Testing Laboratory we are proud to offer four certified microbiology analyses and two non-compliance tests.  We are certified in Nevada and California to analyze Presence/Absence (P/A), Quanti-tray, Fecal Coliform, and Heterotrophic Plate Count (HPC).  The two non-compliance tests we offer are tests to determine Iron Related Bacteria and Sulfate Reducing Bacteria.  WETLAB is continuously evolving each department and strives to offer quality data for clients and we encourage method development by researching new tests in order to meet our client needs.

This post is provided to help clients better understand the microbiology analyses at WETLAB.  Each test will be described in detail with regards to what we are testing for, what type of sample matrices can be analyzed for certain tests, brief description of the analyses and the hold times for each test (please note there are two different hold times for Quanti-tray).  The definition that we follow at WETLAB for sample hold time is the time from sample collection to when analysis MUST begin.

 

For more information on microbiology analysis, please refer to Standard Methods, Part 9000, Methods 9222 and 9223.

 

Bacteria Sample Bottle, Volume and Sample Integrity

  • Plastic, sterile bottle
  • Sample bottle contains sodium thiosulfate.
  • Fill to 100 mL line.
  • Chill to 2-6o C.
  • Cleanliness is required!

 

SM 9223 B

Presence/Absence (P/A)

Laboratory Hold time (HT)

  • P/A  =  30 Hour HT

Sample Matrix

  • This test is recommended for the analysis of potable drinking water and fresh source waters

 

Biology Background

  • The scope of this test is to analyze for the presence or absence of Total Coliform bacteria and Escherichia Coli. Total Coliform bacteria are abundant in the environment and are easily identified in the laboratory.  While these bacteria may not be pathogenic they are used as “indicator bacteria,” for the sanitation of drinking water.  If Total Coliform bacteria are present, there is a chance that E.Coli could also be present.  Some types of E.Coli can be found in the guts of living organisms as beneficial co-factors in the daily health of that individual.  Because E.Coli is found in the gut, the purpose of testing for it is to determine the possibility of fecal contamination, which is used as an indicator for the sanitation of a water source.

Laboratory Analysis

  • Tests for Total Coliform and E. coli only.
  • Strictly a qualitative result is obtained.
  • Used almost exclusively for drinking water.
  • 24 hour incubation.
  • Incubation temperature, 35.0 + 0.5 oC
  • Analysis performed in sample bottle.
  • Commercially available chromogenic substrate (ONPG)-known as “Colilert” is used.
  • Colilert is used to detect the enzyme b-D-galactosidase, which is produced by total coliform.
  • Total coliform detection produces a yellow color.
  • Colilert is used to detect the enzyme b-glucuronidase, which is produced by E. coli.
  • E. coli detection produces a fluorescent product when viewed under long-wavelength UV light.

 


SM 9223 B

Quanti-tray (MPN)

 

Laboratory Hold time (HT)

  • Quanti-tray =  30 Hour HT for Drinking water/Source water
  • Quanti-tray =  6 Hour HT for Wastewater samples

Sample Matrix

  • This test is recommended for the analysis of potable drinking water, fresh source water or wastewaters

 

Biology Background

  • The scope of this test is to analyze for a “most probable number” index of the number of Total Coliform bacteria and Escherichia Coli, present in the sample.. Total Coliform bacteria are abundant in the environment and are easily identified in the laboratory.  While these bacteria may not be pathogenic they are used as “indicator bacteria,” for the sanitation of drinking water.  If Total Coliform bacteria are present, there is a chance that E.Coli could also be present.  Some types of E.Coli can be found in the guts of living organisms as beneficial co-factors in the daily health of that individual.  Because E.Coli is found in the gut, the purpose of testing for it is to determine the possibility of fecal contamination, which is used as an indicator for the sanitation of the water source.

Laboratory Analysis

  • Tests for Total Coliform and E. coli only.
  • Quantitative result is obtained.
  • Most commonly used for source water.
  • 24 hour incubation.
  • Incubation temperature, 35.0 + 0.5 oC
  • Uses Colilert just like presence/absence.
  • Sample poured into analysis tray, then incubated.
  • Count yellow/fluorescent wells in tray, this produces MPN-Most Probable Number result.

SM 9222 D

Fecal Coliform

Laboratory Hold time (HT)

  • Fecal Coliform  =  8 Hour HT

Sample Matrix

  • This test is recommended for the analysis source water, wastewaters and sludge’s.

 

Biology Background

  • The scope of this test is to analyze a direct count of colony forming units of fecal coliform.  Fecal coliform can originate in feces (e.g. E.Coli) or non-fecal origin, such as plant materials and paper mill effluents examples of bacteria are Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Citrobacter.  The assay is intended to detect E. Coli as an indicator organism for fecal contamination.

 

Laboratory Analysis

  • Tests for fecal contamination in water.
  • Quantitative result is obtained.
  • Most commonly used for waste water and surface water.
  • 24 hour incubation in water bath.
  • Incubation temperature, 44.5. + 0.2 oC
    • Sample is filtered (0.45 mm), microorganisms collect on filter and grow due to media used in petri dish.
    • Count blue colonies.

SM 9215 B / SimPlate

HETEROTROPHIC PLATE COUNT (HPC)

Laboratory Hold time (HT)

  • HPC  =  8 Hour HT

Sample Matrix

  • This test is recommended for the analysis of potable drinking water, fresh source water or wastewaters.

Biology Background

  • Heterotrophic bacteria, must consume carbon sources for energy and growth.  They are found prevalent in the environment as decomposing bacteria as well as being normal flora of the human body.  Current research is investigating the use of Heterotrophic bacteria testing for similar purposes as P/A and Fecal Coliform, to evaluate the composition of the water, using Heterotrophic bacteria as the “indicator” organism for possible contamination in water.

 

 

 

Laboratory Analysis

  • Tests for Heterotrophic bacteria
  • Quantitative result is obtained.
  • Most commonly used for drinking water.
  • 48 hour incubation.
  • Incubation temperature, 35.0 + 0.5 oC
  • Uses IDEXX’s Multiple Enzyme Technology media.
  • Sample poured into analysis tray, then incubated.
  • Count blue fluorescence, this produces MPN-Most Probable Number result.


SM 9240 B

Iron Related Bacteria (IRB)

 

SM 9240 C

Sulfate Reducing Bacteria (SRB)

Laboratory Hold time (HT)

  • IRB/SRB  =  WETLAB would prefer to use a hold time of 30 Hours

Sample Matrix

  • This test is recommended for the analysis of treated water, distribution systems and water used in for industrial use, such as cooling and boiler waters.

 

Biology Background

  • The scope of these tests are very similar, hence the reason they have been grouped together.  The metabolic processes of Iron Bacteria and Sulfur Bacteria chemically change the constituents they are associated with.  The metabolic wastes can be bothersome because they can form slimes that clog pipelines or affect the aesthetic properties of water.

Laboratory Analysis

  • Tests for either Iron Related Bacteria or Sulfate Reducing Bacteria
  • Strictly a qualitative result is obtained.
  • Most commonly used for water used for industrial and distribution systems.
  • 8 Day incubation.
  • Incubation temperature, 20-25oC
  • Uses BARTTM test kit for IRB or SRB analysis
  • Sample poured into analysis tray, then incubated.
  • Visually inspect for reactions of presence/absence.

On January 11th, 2011 The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mining Regulation and Reclamation (BMRR) issued a statement clarifying the acceptable methods for the analysis of Weak Acid Dissociable, or “WAD”, cyanide. The statement listed two acceptable methods: ASTM D2036-082 and SM 4500CN I.

Keep in mind this concerns only compliance monitoring samples that are being reported to BMRR. The issued statement doesn’t cover any sample that is not for compliance, or is being reported to any other agency.

Both acceptable methods are manual distillation methods that use a weak acid (glacial acetic acid) to break up easily dissociated cyanide complexes, capture the free cyanide in solution, and then analyze the solution using a few different techniques. These two methods have long been thought to be the most reliable techniques for the quantification of cyanide in waters. BMRR stated that only data obtained using one of these two methods would be acceptable for compliance monitoring.

Western Environmental Testing Laboratory (WETLAB) has been using SM4500CN I for the analysis of WAD cyanide for many years and is currently certified by the State of Nevada, Bureau of Water Quality Planning. Just like any method or technique that WETLAB wishes to use for compliance monitoring sample analysis, we have gone through a rigorous certification program that includes an on-site audit and the analysis of “blind” QC samples.

Over the last decade new techniques have been developed for the analysis of the easily dissociated cyanide complexes that WETLAB hopes become acceptable for BMRR reporting. One specific method is known as Flow Injection Ligand Exchange or F.I.L.E. cyanide. WETLAB is already certified and equipped to use this more efficient and environmentally sound testing method, which would provide clients with quicker turn-around time for results. Should BMRR choose to accept data generated from this technique, WETLAB will contact clients to inform them of our wish to change methodologies.

As always, if you have any questions regarding the information contained in this blog, don’t hesitate to call (775) 355-0202.

One of the qualities we pride ourselves on here at WETLAB are the relationships that we’ve built with our clients over the years and, at least in our opinion, you can’t build relationships if you don’t know anything about us so we’ve decided to start profiling our staff so our readers can get to know a little more about our past, present and future…

Name: Andy Smith
Position: QA/Technical Director

Andy is originally from Phoenix, AZ. He attended Adams State College in Alamosa, CO where he graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry in May 1996. During college he spent time in two different jobs. One was as a lab assistant for organic chemistry and general chemistry labs for about 3 years. The other position, for about a year, was in a BOR lab off-campus as a lab technician and sampler. After graduation, while still in Phoenix, he worked for Rosarita Mexican Foods as a QA technician checking food and can quality for 1 year. Next, he began working for Aqualab (later Acculabs) in the wetchemistry department. He later moved into metals. A few years later, he moved to Reno, NV to work for Acculabs with Michelle Sherven (formerly Kramer).

Since working for WETLAB (formerly Acculabs) he has done pretty much everything. He has been a wetchemistry analyst, a metals analyst, supervisor, laboratory manager, and now QA/Technical director. His training spans everything our lab currently offers, as well as in-depth training by the manufacturers for our IC, ICPMS and Lachet equipment. Also, he had a one day stint as a fish fossil digger in Kemmerer, WY!

Andy fills his time outside work being an avid fan of ice hockey (and even playing some when he gets the chance) and skateboarding. He has also recently started taking boxing classes at TMCC and his favorite author is Michael Crichton.

Feel free to contact Andy at andy@wetlaboratory.com

The Method Detection Limit (MDL) is defined as “the minimum concentration of a substance that can be measured and reported with a 99% confidence that the analyte concentration is greater than zero” (40CFR sec. 136 Appendix B). The MDL is used for various reasons in an analytical laboratory, with the primary reason being it is used to determine the reporting limits for each analyte that a laboratory analyzes for. Reporting Limits (RL’s) are generally 3-5 times the MDL. On occasion a laboratory can report lower than the calculated MDL, however these results are always flagged as estimates and cannot not always be considered legally defensible data. MDL studies are also required as part of the process of maintaining certifications.

A MDL is initially established when a method is set up, a new piece of equipment is brought online or if there is a significant change in equipment or location (i.e. moving to a new location, significant maintenance or replacement of major parts). MDL’s are confirmed on a regular basis according to method specifications (generally on an annual basis but for some parameters, such as anions, it is done twice a year). MDL studies are performed on a regular basis to assure that there is no loss of sensitivity on the equipment due to wear and tear or the constantly changing environmental conditions.

Do you have more questions about MDL’s or questions about other laboratory terminology? Is there something that always confused you about laboratory services? Leave a comment and let us know what you want to know about!