Western Environmental
Testing Laboratory
Snapshot Day 2018

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.

WETLAB hosted the first annual Victory Run 5k and Family Fun Run benefitting the Veteran’s Guest House on May 6th.  With the amazing support and participation of our community, WETLAB donated over $13,000 to VGH!  Over 120 people participated in (and finished!) this great event.

We couldn’t have made this race happen without our generous sponsors.

5k sponsors

 

Finish times can be found here, and all race photos are on our Facebook page.

Join us next year for another great event!

Lithium Brine Testing- Methods for Analysis

In part one of this two part series, we provided an overview of WETLAB’s industry leading practices for Lithium Brine Testing. In part two, we will explore the strengths and limitations associated with each of the four testing methods, including ICP-OES- the preferred method of brine characterization.

WETLAB is an industry leader for lithium brine testing, and has excelled at characterization using ICP-OES. The four main methods of lithium brine testing each have its own strengths and limitations, which we explore below.

FAAS (Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy) involves a nebulized sample being passed through an acetylene flame and the light absorbance of a specific wavelength is then measured. Some of the potential limitations involved with FAAS characterization include low sensitivity, relatively low ionization temperature (3000°C), and only one analyte can be run at a time. Phosphates and Sulfates can also form flame-stable metal salts, which can complicate analysis.

GFAAS (Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy) involves the sample being heated in a graphite tube, and then atomized light is passed through the tube and measured at a specific wavelength. Due to heating programming and specificity, GFAAS analyses are typically done for one element at a time. GFAAS also has long sampling times, low temperature, and a limited dynamic range.

ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry) involves a nebulized sample being passed through high temperature plasma to ionize atoms, which are then isolated by their mass/charge ratio and detected directly. ICP-MS can be an excellent option for some clients, but some of the limitations for lithium analysis are that lithium is very light and can be excluded by heavier atoms, and analysis is typically limited to <0.2% dissolved solids, which means that it is not great for brines. Equipment and technician training costs are also very high with this method.

ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy) involves a nebulized sample being passed through high temperature plasma to ionize atoms, which release light at specific wavelengths. This is the preferred analytical technique for most metals in any matrix, and all metals in a complex matrix such as brine solutions. ICP-OES can handle a high amount of dissolved solids, has little chemical interference, and has robust sample introduction with high-energy plasma (~10,000°C) plasma. ICP-OES can also perform multi-element analysis, easily determining concentrations of other metals (K, Mg, B, etc).   Although ICP-OES is the preferred technique, it does have some limitations. These include moderate detection limits, typically lower than FAAS but higher than GFAAS and ICP-MS in a clean matrix. Complex matrices (such as brine) can often require dilutions from the other methods that may raise the overall Detection Limit. Also, spectral Interferences are common, but can typically be easily compensated to eliminate.

 

To determine how WETLAB can help you get the data you need with our industry leading practices, call WETLAB at (775) 355-0202 and speak with someone from our highly skilled customer and sample management team.

 

Matt Weikel, Inorganic Laboratory Manager, presented at a training hosted by Nevada Water Resources Association (NWRA) regarding WETLAB’s industry leading lithium brine testing methods. In this two part series, we will provide an overview of this presentation, and explore various methods of analysis.

Lithium Brine extraction and processing is gaining traction in Nevada. Lithium mining uses evaporation ponds, which produces a brine that lithium is then extracted from. With lithium brine gaining popularity, lithium brine testing has become an interesting and ever-changing topic.

WETLAB has always sought to develop products and practices that are in our clients’ best interest, which is why we have perfected the ideal method of lithium brine testing to meet various client needs.   Lithium brine can be characterized on four different pieces of equipment, including:

  1. FAAS (Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy)
  2. GFAAS (Graphite Furnace AAS)
  3. ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry)
  4. ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy)

WETLAB continues to excel at ICP-OES characterization, which is the preferred method of analysis for lithium brines.  Each of these methods has its own strengths and limitations, and is coupled with a digestion method to place the metals into solution. WETLAB commonly uses a two-acid digestion, HNO3 + HCl, which include EPA methods 200.2, 3010, and 3050. After the sample is digested, it is ready for analysis.  WETLAB commonly recommends using ICP-OES analysis, as it works best for the characteristics of brine, and obtaining other data metrics from the sample.

When you choose WETLAB for your lithium brine testing and characterization needs, you get a lot of benefits.   WETLAB prioritizes customer service and accurate analysis, and we’re always here to help you get what you want.   We ensure precise analysis through a robust QA/QC program coupled with several measures of internal data and accuracy checks.

Part two of this series, WETLAB Lithium Brine Testing, we will explore the strengths and limitations associated with each of the above testing methods, and determine why using WETLAB for ICP-OES analysis is ideal.

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.

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

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.

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.