Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
Lessons from the Lab: Cyanide Testing Requirements

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

Cyanide sampling requirements have become stricter over the years. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) issued guidance in October of 2015 that cyanide analysis must be collected correctly in the field so as not to have samples rejected by the analytical laboratory, or by the state due to incorrect sampling procedures.

NDEP stated, “If you are analyzing Cyanide samples for compliance with a Nevada program, (SDWA, CWA, RCRA, Mining) samples must be collected as described below (ASTM D-7365-09).  Data obtained from samples not collected as described in ASTM D-7365-09 will be rejected.”

“ASTM D-7365-09 8.2.1 states that sample containers shall be made of materials that will not contaminate the sample, cleaned thoroughly to remove all extraneous surface contamination prior to use.  Chemically resistant glass containers as well as rigid plastic containers made of high density polyethylene (HDPE) are suitable.  Samples should be collected and stored in amber gas tight vials or narrow mouth bottles to minimize exposure to ultraviolet radiation and to minimize headspace in the sample containers (for example, amber open top VOA vials, amber Boston round bottles, or amber narrow-mouth HDPE bottles).”

“All certified Laboratories must reject samples not collected in suitable containers.”

What does this mean? All samples, regardless of matrix (drinking water, wastewater, ground water, surface water, aqueous, soil, sludge, etc.), must be collected in an amber narrow mouth container to minimize UV radiation exposure and to minimize headspace in sample containers.  Samples not collected in the correct containers must be rejected by the laboratory and the sample should be collected in the correct containers, as described above. Furthermore, as dictated by the method cited by NDEP, chemical preservation is also required for aqueous samples.  Aqueous samples must be preserved with sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to pH >10 at the time of collection, and then chilled on ice.

At WETLAB, we provide the appropriate bottles and preservative (NaOH) needed for your cyanide analysis, and are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding cyanide sampling containers.

Please call us at any at 775-355-0202 to request sample containers.

WETLAB has been participating in Snapshot Day for over a decade!  Snapshot Day is coordinated by the Bureau of Water Quality Planning within the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP).  Snapshot Day occurs annually and is a two-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 more than 105 miles!  Snapshot Day is an event that involves the community and education outreach; volunteers from local businesses and organizations spend their time teaching students throughout the Tahoe and Truckee Basin about conservation, ecology, hydrology, environmental stewardship, and water quality.  In addition, site facilitators conduct a stream walk for habitat assessment and sample collection for field and laboratory testing.  In conjunction with NDEP, these small groups help create a larger picture of the health of the Basin and watershed.  This provides longitudinal data that helps identify possible sources of pollution or other contamination and information for community planning and development.

On Friday, May 18th 2018, WETLAB volunteered for the 18th Annual Snapshot Day.  Our sampling site was part of the Lower Truckee River at Whites Creek on the campus of Mountain View Montessori School.  As facilitators, we had the opportunity to teach 4th & 5th grade students about the importance of a healthy watershed, water quality, field testing methods, the water cycle, and environmental sustainability.  We were excited to provide a hands-on learning experience to stimulate interest and stewardship while learning about pollution, invasive species, the water cycle, and procedures for field testing.  We also emphasized the importance of observation and protection of our unique water resources.

Team WETLAB at White's Creek for Snapshot Day 2018.

Team WETLAB at White’s Creek for Snapshot Day 2018.

Nitrate levels are regularly monitored in drinking water to ensure compliance with EPA standards.  WETLAB regularly tests for Nitrate, Nitrite, and Total Nitrogen concentration in water and soils using a variety of methods, including EPA 300.0, EPA 353.2, and EPA 9056. But how does increased Nitrogen load in drinking water occur, and what are the possible health risks associated with high levels?

Increased Nitrogen concentration in surface water is observed in areas with fertilizer runoff, often from agricultural areas.  Increased Nitrogen concentration in ground water is also observed in areas with farming, and areas with high concentrations of septic systems.  In farming and agricultural areas, fertilizers (such as potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate) are essential for growing crops, but decompose into the soil to increase nutrient concentration.  This is also observed from decomposing animal manure, and from decomposing human sewage from septic tanks.

This increased Nitrogen concentration is often referred to as “Nutrient Pollution,” as Nitrogen and various other elements are essential to our soils and atmosphere, but can cause problems when the concentration reaches a certain threshold.  The EPA has defined this threshold for Nitrate as 10.0 mg/L, and for Nitrite as 1.0 mg/L.  Potential health effects from increased Nitrogen concentration are most often seen in infants less than 6 months old, resulting in methemoglobinemia, a temporary blood disorder referred to as “blue baby syndrome.” Adults are usually not as susceptible to this condition.

More information about Nitrate contamination in drinking water can be found through the EPA here.

Lead is a commonly tested for contaminant in drinking water, and public water systems must test for it on a prescribed, regular basis.  WETLAB routinely tests for trace lead amounts in drinking water for many clients using two main methods- EPA 200.7 and 200.8.  These methods use ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma) machines, which can detect very small amounts of trace metals in water.  But why is testing for lead important?  What are the potential health risks associated with lead, and when do we care about it?

Lead is most commonly introduced into drinking water from service pipes and solder containing lead that corrode.  The corrosion is often due to acidity in the water, which causes the lead to leach out of the pipe and into the water.  Lead can also be introduced into drinking water through erosion of natural deposits. The EPA has identified the maximum allowable content of lead in water to be 0 mg/L, and an “action level” as 0.015 mg/L.

Lead in children, even in very low levels, has been shown to cause erratic behavior, learning problems, and slowed growth.  Lead exposure is most dangerous to young children, infants, and fetuses.  For that reason, lead exposure is also a significant concern for pregnant women.  During pregnancy, lead amounts that have built up over a lifetime can leach out of the mothers bones and impact the growing fetus.  Lead can also be dangerous for adults, although typically in higher levels than in children.

To mitigate these potential health effects, it is imperative that lead levels are tested accurately and consistently. Public health agencies routinely monitor the results of these tests to ensure that action is taken before a crisis arises.

More information can be found on the Quick Reference Guide, published by the EPA.

At WETLAB, we believe that good communication is a critical part of ensuring our clients receive good data.  Our QA manager and sales team presented on this topic in March at the Nevada Rural Water Association Conference in Reno, NV. Below is a small synopsis of this presentation. 

Good communication appears to be a simple goal, but can be difficult to achieve.  There are many players involved at every stage, and one small miscommunication can result in the end product not being what is needed.  The —ultimate goal is to produce legally defensible results that meet Data Quality objectives.

The many moving parts of good communication.

The many moving parts of good communication.

It is imperative that clients and the lab communicate clearly- WETLAB strives to ensure that all of our clients understand what data they need to satisfy regulatory requirements. The regulatory landscape concerning water is ever-changing, and can be confusing.  At WETLAB, we stay up to date with the latest changes so that we can help our clients get the results they need.  Outside of the lab, we talk to our clients and their regulators to determine needs.  Inside of the lab, we discuss projects clearly throughout all departments.

Clear communication has many moving pieces inside the lab.

Clear communication has many moving pieces inside the lab.

The critical point of communication occurs between the client and the lab.  Providing WETLAB with the appropriate documents helps to clearly show objectives. These documents include: a detailed Client Information Sheet, a Sampling Analysis Plan, the Scope of Work, and the Chain of Custody.  Having an accurate and clear Chain of Custody is imperative to retain legal defensibility of sample results.  Our staff reviews all Chain of Custody forms to make sure they are clear and fully completed.

If all participants communicate as clearly as possible, the goal of regulatory compliance can be achieved.  Contact WETLAB to see how we can help you achieve your goals.

Broadbent – a full-service environmental, civil engineering, and water resources consulting firm – is experiencing fantastic growth in their air quality, cultural resource management, and water/wastewater service areas thanks in part to the support and resources of their testing partner WETLAB.

According to Randy Miller, Principal Engineer at Broadbent, “WETLAB provides competent and cost effective testing services. Their staff is knowledgeable and customer oriented. They understand our needs and the needs of our clients.”

Broadbent and Associates post-fire sceening

Broadbent and Associates post-fire screening

Recently, the company successfully collaborated with a range of stakeholders on Superfund projects in Arizona, California, and Broadbent’s home state of Nevada. One effort was EPA’s Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team (START) contract. This took place during Gold King Mine spill response efforts in Arizona and the 4-Corners Region with Broadbent assisting the US EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA to assess the extent and effects of the spill’s plume on the San Juan River.

A similar emergency response event Broadbent supported was EPA’s recent disaster relief effort in Middletown, California. This work was in reaction to the Valley Fire that consumed much of the town and surrounding Lake County communities. The work required expedient response, complex project planning, and thorough risk assessment by staff from multiple Broadbent offices.

Broadbent is proud to address customer needs in a safe, reliable, and efficient manner by leveraging their strong business partnerships, like the one they have with WETLAB. Whether undertakings are part of upfront planning, operations, or are emergency based, Broadbent professionals are ready to bring their expertise to the field.

Broadbent

Broadbent & Associates, Inc. is a Nevada-based, full-service environmental, civil engineering, and water resources consulting firm founded in 1987. The company is tested and trusted by their client base and regulatory agencies and has forged strong relationships with agency personnel, industry leaders, and innovative partners throughout the Western US. Broadbent’s professionals know what is required to complete projects and approach work in a safe, thoughtful, and informed manner.

Broadbent specializes in a range of professional environmental services, including: Air Quality Permitting and Stack Testing, Cultural Resource Management, Environmental Sampling, Assessment, and Remediation, Emergency Response, Water and Wastewater Facility Operations, Civil Design and Construction Quality Assurance, Water Resources, and Health and Safety Services.

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. 

Nevada is home to many beautiful, expansive, and green golf courses.  But, Nevada is also a dry, arid desert which is currently going through a severe drought, and there’s no end in sight.  How are these two seemingly irreconcilable realities coexisting?  Well, that’s a multi-faceted answer.

Golf courses go hand-in-hand with Nevada’s hospitality and luxury industries, and companies would be hard pressed to simply let their green investments die a brown, crunchy death.  So companies, and courses, have gotten a little creative.  While they started with the obvious measures of reducing overall usage, and examining pipes for leaks, the reduction was simply was not enough.  Golf courses have now started using treated effluent water as a means for watering their massive lawns.  Many courses in Nevada, especially those lining the Las Vegas strip, have used gray water for several years, but effluent water is a newer usage concept.  Effluent water differs from gray water in that it must be more treated, since it can contain sewage.  Using effluent water, instead of fresh water or even gray water, means a reduction of demand for potable water, which in turn means that our dwindling water supply can hold out a bit longer.

Northern Nevada golf courses have capitalized on the use of treated effluent water as a means to water their grass.  It’s clear that the water-saving measure isn’t negatively impacting the golf courses, too, because the lawns are bright green and thriving.  You just have to drive by Washoe County’s Sierra Sage Golf Course in Stead to see that this is a great way to water the turf.  Sierra Sage gets their water from the City of Reno’s Stead Water Reclamation Facility, where the effluent water is treated to the point where it is no longer dangerous, but still not potable.

Another impact of this ever-worsening drought?  Shorter winters mean more time on the putting green.

 

WETLAB tests effluent water for EPA compliance, and water for golf courses is no exception.  WETLAB will also test all of your runoff and fertilizer samples, call (775) 355-0202 for more information.

Nik Shulenberger and Ellen Messinger-Patton at WETLAB’s booth on turbidity and water clarity.

 

Three WETLAB staffers spent their day volunteering at U.C. Davis’s Tahoe Environmental Research Center’s Children’s Environmental Science Day on August 2, 2015.  This wonderful event presented many different environmental topics to kids of all ages, and each booth was hosted by a different interested organization.  WETLAB hosted a booth on turbidity and water clarity, which simultaneously exposed children to modern science and helped them understand a specific aspect of Lake Tahoe conservation.

 

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A portion of the booths set up to expose children to environmental science and conservation.

 

 

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Jasmine shows kids how to test various water samples with a turbidimeter.

 

Effluent water could soon become part of your normal drinking water in Northern Nevada.  According to KTVN, reclaimed water is around 30% cheaper than potable water, but the problem is that waste water is not drinkable yet. Yet is the key word here, because regulations that define how much the water will need to be treated are working their way through the Nevada state legislature, and lawmakers are hoping to see them adopted by the 2017 session.

As everyone knows, Northern Nevada is suffering a severe drought.  Having another way to reuse water will have a great, positive environmental impact on our already low waterways.  Effluent water is already being used in some ways, mostly to irrigate parks and golf courses, but more could be put back into eventual use by the proposed measure.  The process involves injecting semi-treated water directly into the ground, so that it will later make its way back into our pipes.  This will ease the strain that is currently put on the Truckee River, which will in turn help with our ecosystem.

Effluent water is defined as waste-water, whether treated or not, that flows out from an industrial treatment plant or sewer.  Secondary effluent is that same water that has been treated, but not to the point of purity.  Obviously, the main difference between potable and effluent water is the cleanliness of the water, and its fitness for human consumption.

WETLAB preforms several tests on effluent water for many different clients, including public and private companies.  Some of these tests are Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), which tests how much oxygen demand the effluent water has, and Total Suspended Solids (TSS), which tests the amount of suspended solids within an aqueous sample.  Several other tests are often performed in tandem on effluent water samples, including Total Nitrogen, Nitrate + Nitrite, Ammonia, Total Phosphorous, and Fecal Coliform.  These tests all provide a detailed profile of what exactly is contained in an effluent sample, and allow proprietors to know how to best treat their water.

Singapore and Texas have already implemented effluent-to-drinking-water purification systems, with positive results.  To read more about this program in Nevada, and to see an interesting news report on it, click here.