COVID-19 and Our Water & Wastewater Industry

(March 17, 2020) – As an essential service, our laboratory continues to operate to protect public health and preserve our environment.  The Centers for Disease Control and Water Environment Federation has shared guidance about drinking water and wastewater transmission of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Their websites will be frequently updated with new information as it becomes available.  Live information on their website should be used for the most accurate information.

According to WEF, currently, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus survives the disinfection process for drinking water and wastewater.

  • The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water.
  • The risk of transmission through feces is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
  • At this time, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low.

Water Transmission and COVID-19  <–This Site Answers the following Questions:

  • Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water?
  • Is the COVID-19 virus found in feces?
  • Can the COVID-19 virus spread through pools and hot tubs?
  • Can the COVID-19 virus spread through sewerage systems?
  • Should wastewater workers take extra precautions to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus?

For Guidance for Reducing Health Risk to Workers Handling Human Wastewater <–​ This Site Shares the following Information:

  • Basic Hygiene Practices for Workers
  • Personal Protective Equipment

We remain committed to providing our team with all support, tools, and information necessary to safely perform their jobs.

If you are a client experiencing disruption to business operations, please contact your project manager as soon as you learn so that we can make arrangements to accommodate your alterations.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Service Update

We’d like to let you know what Suburban Testing Labs is doing as a result of the COVID-19 virus news.

Most of our clients are considered “essential services”, providing safe drinking water to residents and clean water to our rivers, lakes and streams from treatment facilities. As a result, many require frequent analytical testing.

We will remain operational to support our clients as planned unless you hear otherwise.

If your business or facility has temporarily closed, altered entry procedures, contact information, or anything has changed regarding our routine sample collection/pick-up procedures to serve you, notify your Project Manager immediately to minimize disruption for all of our clients.

We recognize that our clients and our team are working with samples that may contain harmful bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants on a daily basis.  Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) measures are always essential for all employees handling samples. However, recent Coronavirus news is a good reminder to be extra diligent when handling samples and entering the premises of our client sites.

What Are We Doing Internally

Although many of our employees are in the low or very low risk segment for contracting COVID-19, we all have an obligation to do our part to slow the spread and protect the health of our team members and families.

We have taken measures to remain fully operational to serve you, such as:

  1. Cancelling employee attendance at any events with more than 25 attendees and keep in person meetings to a minimum in the building.
  2. Minimizing onsite visits, beyond Sample Receiving, from non-essential guests and screening all visitors using a questionnaire to assess their risk level.
  3. Instituting daily and more frequent sanitizing of commonly touched surfaces.
  4. Field Scientists and Technicians have been given guidance to help them minimize exposure at client sites.
  5. Requiring a quarantine period before returning to work for employees who travel by air to certain places, or have other factors that put them at higher risk.
  6. Offering opportunities to alter work shifts to minimize the number of people in the building at a given time and provide opportunities for those who lose childcare due to school and daycare closures.

We are actively taking every step necessary to ensure your lab testing services are not disrupted. Should anything change, we will be sure to make you aware immediately.

Thank you,

Your Suburban Testing Labs Team

World Cancer Day 2020

February 4th marks World Cancer Day.  Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide with 9.6 million people dying from cancer each year – this number is predicted to almost double by 2030*. One of the key ways to help reduce public risk is Government action and accountability.  The EPA’s Brownfields Program and the Safe Drinking Water Act are two ways our government does just that.

What are some key cancer-causing contaminants we test for in our lab to support these programs? And what are the health effects?  In this issue, we dive into some of these important cancer-causing contaminants.

Brownfield and Land Revitalization

Assessing contamination potential at Brownfields is critical to ensuring sites can be reused to benefit our communities.  Over the past year we’ve performed more than 70,000 analyses for environmental consultants and facilities that responsibly dispose of harmful waste.

Contaminants often found at Brownfield sites include Lead, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).  Human exposure pathways are breathing dust or soil particles, consumption of contaminated water or food, and skin contact with contaminated dust and soil particles.

Lead

Sources of Lead contamination are usually mining, fuel, paint, inks, piping, battery and ammunition production.  In addition to causing cancer, Lead exposure can also cause damage to your brain, nerves, organs and bones.

Our lab has performs analyses for Lead using various methods, including EPA 200.7 and SW 846 6010/6020 using Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) technology. Methods used depend on sample characteristics and reporting limit requirements.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs usually originate from industry and commercial product solvents, degreasers, paint strippers, and dry cleaning operations.  In addition to causing various types of cancers, VOC exposure can also cause eye irritation, nausea, and damage to your kidney, liver and nervous systems.

Over the past  year, our chemists have seen more than 11,000 VOC analyses pass through our laboratory via various methods, including EPA 624 and SW 846 8260. These tests are performed using state-of-the art Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectometry (GC/MS) technology.

Safe Drinking Water Act Analysis

Approximately 150,000 public water systems provide drinking water to Americans, and we perform high volumes of drinking water testing required of public water suppliers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.  Over the past year we’ve performed over 83,000 analyses in support of SDWA testing requirements. Two examples of the many cancer-causing contaminants we test for are Arsenic and Nitrate.

Arsenic

Arsenic is considered an Inorganic Contaminant (IOC) and EPA adopted a more stringent limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in 2001, down from the previous 50 ppb limit.  It comes from erosion of natural deposits, runoff from orchards, run off from glass and electronic production wastes.  It causes cancer of the bladder, lungs and skin.

Analyses for Arsenic in drinking water is performed via method EPA 200.8, which is analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS).  We can analyze for many other trace metals using this method, such as Lead and Copper.   Our standard reporting limit for Arsenic under 200.8 is .001 parts per million.

Nitrate

Second only to Total Coliform and E.Coli, Nitrate is a contaminant that requires frequent monitoring.  Increased risks of colon, kidney, and stomach cancer were observed among those with higher ingestion of water nitrate and higher meat intake compared with low intakes of both

Nitrate contamination often originates from runnoff from fertilizer use, leaking from septic tanks, sewage, erosion of natural deposits.

We have multiple ways of analyzing Nitrate, including method EPA 300.0 using Ion Chromatography in our Inorganic Chemistry department.  The Maximum Contaminant Level set by EPA is 10 ppm, and we routinely analyze down to the 1 ppm level.

Drinking water from private ground water wells is not regulated or tested for, unless the homeowner independently elects to do so.

 

*Source – Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

(water+hops+barley) + wings + pizza = Super Bowl Sunday

How does our job relate to the Super Bowl? Forbes estimates that Americans are drinking 325 million gallons of beer during the weekend of the big game.  Whatever people are drinking, it takes a lot to wash down all the pizza and chicken wings.  Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving in food consumption.

We test drinking water in 4 states that serve nearly 3 million people.  Water for your taps, water that gets bottled, water used to make vended ice, and yes, water that’s used in beer production.

Since the last Super Bowl, we’ve performed over 83,000 analyses for public water suppliers.  Total Coliform and E.coli bacteria are the highest volume test we perform, accounting  for about 30% of total analysis volume.  But we also test for many other important toxic contaminants such as Lead, Pesticides, and Nitrates. It’s a very important job, and we take every analysis seriously.

So if you’re washing down some guacamole with, say, a local craft beer – we may have tested the water used to make it.  It’s all in our pursuit to help protect public health and preserve the environment.

Dr. Martin Luther King, JR. Day of Service

Make it a day ON, not a day off

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 2020 is Monday, January 20th. Americans began commemorating MLK Jr’s birthday through legislation in 1983 as a federal holiday, and it was decided to be the third Monday of every January. Instead of it being a day off, in 1994 Congress designated the federal holiday as a “National Day of Service” and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort.

The Corporation states that the day is “intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Check out the links below for ideas for how you can have an impact by volunteering in your community!

The #MLKDayofService is a good reminder to all of us that we can give back to our community any day of the year, not just the third Monday of each January.

As a part of our mission statement, Suburban Testing Labs offers 16 hours of paid Volunteer Time Off (VTO) as a part of our employee benefits. The purpose of this philanthropic program is to support activities that enhance and serve communities we live and work, and the issues that impact quality of life.

Our employees enjoy their experiences using VTO, and the activity is important to them. Our employees inspire us not only with their hard work and diligence, but with the passion they share for giving back. Share your stories with us on our social media feed. Comment on our posts, or post with the hashtag #SuburbanGivesBack.

2019 Holiday Hours

While our laboratory operates 365 Days per year, our office does observe holiday hours for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

We ask that samples are dropped off at our laboratory by 1:00 as shown below so our analysts can be with their families as much as possible.

Sample pick-up and collection changes will be arranged by your project manager.

Warmest wishes of the Season from our family to yours!

Analysis of Nutrients in Waters

Total Phosphorous, Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, Nitrate, and Nitrite are important nutrients for wastewater treatment plants to remove in their treatment processes.  Excessive nutrients in our natural bodies of water stimulate algae and plant growth, create dissolved oxygen issues, and limits the ability of marine life to thrive.  Before wastewater is discharged, operators are challenged with removing these nutrients during the treatment process to protect our rivers, lakes and streams.

Since the Chesapeake Bay Program began to take shape in 2010, many wastewater treatment plants invested in new technologies to achieve nutrient removal requirements.  At the same time new testing requirements and limits began to appear on NPDES permits, and now we are seeing low level compliance requirements statewide.

When samples are collected, how do we test for them?  We wanted to share one important part of our Inorganic Chemistry Department that our clients rely on for the analysis and reporting of nutrient concentration in their treated wastewater to ensure the preservation of our natural water environment.

Instrumentation

In the past 12 months our lab has processed over 37,000 samples for nutrient analysis.  Our chemists and lab analyst utilize Flow Injection Analysis (FIA) and Segmented Flow Analysis (SFA) to process these samples.  Our number one goal is always high quality, defensible data.  But these instruments also have the advantage of delivering results to our clients faster, enabling them to make important treatment decisions. 

Flow Injection Analysis (FIA)

Our FIAs are powerful automated chemistry analyzers used for performing analysis on TKN, Nitrate/Nitrite (Combined), and Cyanide (Total and Free).  The continuous flow of samples through the instrument allow us to meet high demand and sample throughput with incredible accuracy.  The instrument consists of an autosampler, a peristaltic pump, a power base module, and detector equipped to analyze. 

Segmented Flow Analysis (SFA)

Our SFA system is primarily used for the analysis of Total Phosphorus, and has the capability to analyze Ammonia, and Nitrate/Nitrite Combined.  The SFA instrumentation operates similarly to a FIA.  Both Segmented Flow Analysis (SFA) and Flow Injection Analysis (FIA) are continuous flow methods that rapidly process large numbers of samples. SFA analysis also adds an inline digestion step which removes the need for separate digestion preparation, and improves opportunities for acceptable quality control, limiting the need for re-analysis.

SFA and FIA utilize the same basic operation including a peristaltic pump that continuously merges samples and reagents in exact proportions that are determined by the internal diameter of plastic pump tubing. The primary analytical difference between SFA and FIA is that SFA mixes by turbulence produced by the introduction of a segmentation gas (bubbles) and FIA relies on dispersion and generation of an asymmetric Gaussian shaped color gradient with a detector response being proportional to concentration.1

As noted above, both FIA and SFA provide the Nitrate/Nitrite Combined result.  For quantitative results of the individual constituents, our chemists utilize Ion Chromatography, a different technology and method altogether.

Analysis

Our team of analysts work nearly around the clock processing samples from multiple states in the mid-Atlantic region.  Our goal is to get our clients data fast, and so it takes a lot of coordination, communication, and collaboration from our team to make that happen.

While speed is important, high quality, defensible data always comes first.  After our analysts prepare, analyze, and enter results for these samples, our team of Quality Specialists validate the results and quality control associated with each batch of analysis. 

Following validation by our Quality Team, our Clients Services Team then reviews the data again, following a specific checklist of criteria before the results can be released to the client.  Once approved, our client receives the report. 

Our mission is to provide high quality, defensible lab testing data from all our various departments to our clients that is needed for decision making in order to protect the health of the environment, and the public.  While this happens in many departments, the Gravimetric Lab is essential to the success of our overall company mission, and for the decision making of our clientele. 

To speak to a Suburban Testing Labs representative about our testing services or to learn more about our technical resources, contact us anytime.

1 –  Source: https://www.ezkem.com/faq-items/sfa-fia/

Gravimetric Analysis

We have a lot of state-of-the art equipment in complex areas of our laboratory, but some parts of the environmental laboratory that rarely get talked about are in fact those that have the highest sample volumes and are critical to environmental decision making.  One example of that is our Gravimetric Laboratory.

Over the past 12 months we’ve performed over 43,400 tests in our Gravimetric Lab, which is part of our Inorganic Chemistry Department.  Tests analyzed here include Total Suspended Solids, Total Dissolved Solids, and Total Solids.  What type of clients typically perform these tests, and what’s the difference between them?  We wanted to shed some light on this very busy and very important area of our laboratory.

Common Client Types

The most common client type performing solids analysis is a wastewater treatment plant requesting Total Suspended Solids.  These tests are required by the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that plants discharging into our natural bodies of water are not exceeding limits on solid materials which could be harmful to aquatic life. High levels of suspended solids will decrease Dissolved Oxygen (DO) levels and could increase water temperatures by absorbing more heat from solar radiation. 

Another common purpose for performing solids analysis is to support Environmental Site Assessments, where a client is trying to determine potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities of a property.  Typically, Environmental Engineers and Consultants are working to examine if there is soil, ground water or surface water contamination, and will collect samples for various contaminants, including the determination of percent solids or moisture content of the samples. 

The Differences

Total Suspended Solids (TSS)

TSS is the measurement of the particles that are floating or suspended in the water sample.  We trap suspended particles with a pre-weighed filter using a filtration apparatus.  Filters are dried to remove excess moisture, then are weighed to determine the particulates present in the water sample.  Samples are typically taken at the Effluent (point after treatment) but are often also collected at the Influent (prior to treatment) as well.

TSS is listed as a “Conventional Pollutant” in the Clean Water Act, which means that it is amenable to treatment by a wastewater treatment plant.  Other Conventional Pollutants include: BOD, Fecal Coliform, Oil & Grease, and pH.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

TDS measures the combined total of organic and inorganic substances dissolved in the water sample.  Although TDS are not considered a primary or conventional pollutant, it is commonly composed of calcium, phosphorous, nitrates, and other dissolved minerals.  Clients may test for specific contaminants that may be dissolved in the water separately to determine the concentration of these constituents. Analysis procedures require filtration of the sample to remove any suspended solids. The filtrate of the sample is collected in a vessel, dried to remove moisture, then weighed to determine the total dissolved substance of the sample.

Total Solids or Percent Solids

Total Solids in waters is the total of all the solids in a sample.  They include TSS, TDS, and Volatile components. In water, total solids will affect water clarity.  Higher solids decrease the passage of light through water, slowing plant growth.  The results are expressed in mg/L.   

In soil, the solids content is the quantity of solid materials the soil contains separate from the moisture content.  In addition to water and soil, total solids are also analyzed on biosolids, sludge and various solid materials for hazardous waste determination. This measurement is reported as a percentage when performed on solid matrices. 

Analysis procedures include measuring the weight of the sample before and after a drying process is completed, designed to remove any moisture content from the sample.

Total Solids analysis is often needed to calculate other results that are obtained in the laboratory by other analysis methods. 

Analysis

Our team of analysts work nearly around the clock processing samples from multiple states in the mid-Atlantic region.  Our goal is to get our clients data fast, and so it takes a lot of coordination, communication, and collaboration from our team to make that happen.

While speed is important, high quality, defensible data always comes first.  After our analysts prepare, analyze, and enter results for these samples, our team of Quality Specialists validate the results and quality control associated with each batch of analysis. 

Following validation by our Quality Team, our Clients Services Team then reviews the data again, following a specific checklist of criteria before the results can be released to the client.  Once approved, our client receives the report. 

Our mission is to provide high quality, defensible lab testing data from all our various departments to our clients that is needed for decision making in order to protect the health of the environment, and the public.  While this happens in many departments, the Gravimetric Lab is essential to the success of our overall company mission, and for the decision making of our clientele. 

To speak to a Suburban Testing Labs representative about our testing services or to learn more about our technical resources, contact us anytime.

Tailgate Party Giveaway

Fall is here, and so is football, grilling, and backyard fire pit season. To celebrate this great season, we are doing one last giveaway for the season.

Enter to win our Suburban Tailgate Party Basket, which includes:

Tailgating Giveaway
  • $25 Gift Card to Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Suburban Testing Labs Beer Mug
  • HydraPeak 12oz Travel Mug for your Drink of Choice
  • Football
  • Spice Rub & Hot Sauces
  • Wood and Metal Crate
  • Hot Mitts, Kitchen Towel, and Grill Scrubber

Deadline to enter is 11:59 EST Monday, September 30, 2019. Winner will be notified Tuesday, October 1st. Good luck!

Back to School 2019 Giveaway

Summer is unofficially ending this weekend, and kids are headed back to school. We thought we’d celebrate the start of fall with a fun Suburban Swag Giveaway Contest!

The basket includes:

  • Suburban Testing Labs Moleskine Journal
  • $25 Gift Card to Target
  • Insulated Lunch Bag
  • Glass Reusable Water Bottle
  • Silicone Reusable Straws
  • Fancy Pen Set
  • Metal Storage Basket
  • and Smarties!

Deadline to enter is 11:59 EST Monday, September 2, 2019. Winner will be notified Tuesday, September 3rd. Good luck!

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