Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
Bruce Metals

Bruce Metals, Inc. has been a WETLAB client since mid-2012.  BMI is an interesting client because of their project and the way that we process their samples.  Many clients have fairly standard tests, especially those that are dictated by the state in permits.  Bruce Metals is different; WETLAB worked with them to develop tests that meet their unique matrices and concentrations.  Due to the uniqueness of working with Bruce Metals, we decided to highlight them in a client testimonial.

BMI works with several mining clients to draw metals in parts-per-billion ranges from leaching solutions.  This specialized process requires specialized testing, which is where WETLAB comes in.  We have worked with BMI to make testing procedures and data that meets their needs, ensuring a long and prosperous relationship.

If you missed our client testimonial with Andy Roberts of Bruce Metals, Inc., check it out here.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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!

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Andy Smith helps to inspire some future scientists.

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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.

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. 

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.

In this blog, we spend much of our time talking about water quality testing news, science and politics that we find interesting; but with this month’s blog, we decided to do something a little different.

Here at WETLAB we care about maintaining and improving water quality, above and beyond our roll in monitoring it. When we came across some tips for average citizens to help from www.cleanwateraction.org, we thought it was a great fit.

First is some news that’s been getting quite a bit of attention in the last few years: Don’t flush medicines, pharmaceuticals or personal care products down the toilet or down the drain. That includes anything from over-the-counter drugs to cosmetics and even sun screen or vitamins. They can all impact both the environment and our drinking water down the road.
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Don’t use antibacterial soaps when you don’t need to. These products often contain chemicals that harm aquatic life, and can lead to antibiotic resistant germs.

Don’t put motor oil, detergents, fertilizers, pesticides or anything but water down storm drains. And speaking of motor oil, fix any drips or leaks on your car or truck so it doesn’t wash into the water supply with the rain.

Try to use natural gardening products over pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The same goes for inside the home–stay away from toxic household products in cleaning and home care.

Pick up after your pets! Their waste contains bacteria that can end up in the water supply when it’s washed down the storm drain.

Pave less of your property. The more water runs across pavement instead of seeping down into the soil, the greater chance it has to pick up pollutants, pick up speed and cause flooding or erosion.

These are just a few tips we thought were worth sharing. Please add your ideas by commenting on this post or on our Facebook page.

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