Welcome to the RMWQAA Website! 

Monthly Blog

Check our Blog page regularly for continually changing info, articles, news, and more!

  • 30 Apr 2020 8:59 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Hi! We hope this finds you and yours safe and healthy during this time!

    In this era of COVID, most drinking water professionals, wastewater professionals, and those that work in labs and other professions that provide assistance to maintain critical infrastructure have been classified as “necessary”, and most are required to go in to work, even if it is on a modified schedule. This requirement exposes many to vectors that those that are working from home are not exposed to. Most are not ‘on the front lines’, but their services keep permit requirements intact, water quality high,   and reassure the public that a new public health crisis does not evolve from failing water treatment. Remember, through all of the craziness your contribution matters, and we appreciate all that you do!

    One positive thing about coronavirus; it does not ‘survive’ water treatment. There have been no cases of coronavirus in drinking water. Likewise, standard wastewater disinfection also renders coronavirus incapable of transmitting disease. Just imagine how much worse everything would be if this was not the case!

    However, coronavirus is known to be present in wastewater. This can cause extra concern for wastewater operators, lab analysts, and others exposed to raw wastewater. Whether or not the coronavirus in wastewater can cause disease is still an open question that needs more study. Some studies show that coronavirus can survive for several days in wastewater, while other testing has shown that coronavirus is inactivated by going through a human gut. In any case, the good news is that no known case of COVID 19 is known to have been transmitted via wastewater. The CDC calls wastewater ‘low risk’ for COVID 19. The CDC, OSHA, and WEF all agree that the normal engineered and administrative measures, PPE, and hygiene measures protect wastewater workers sufficiently from COVID 19. While the risk is low, wastewater workers must exercise extra diligence at work, even while already taking added measures like wearing masks and social distancing. Additionally, WRRFs are not assured of being able to get sufficient PPE because of the higher world demand.

    While we hope that wastewater does not have extra risks for workers, the coronavirus in wastewater has the possibility of becoming an important weapon in the fight against COVID 19. Because coronavirus is excreted in the feces and urine of affected persons, coronavirus in a sewer can be an early warning of COVID 19, and can be representative of the spread in the sewershed. It can also give important and timely information to public health decision-makers. This is known as Water Based Epidemiology (WBE), or Environmental Surveillance (ES). This is a developing field related to COVID 19 and has several hurdles before becoming relevant, but it is looking hopeful.

    Researchers in The Netherlands are credited for being first to test wastewater for coronavirus. They found coronavirus in wastewater even before the first reported COVID infection in the sewershed. Thus, they established that coronavirus in the wastewater can be an early warning of COVID 19 in the population.

    There are also currently several efforts to analyze levels of coronavirus in wastewater, and then to correlate those levels to an estimated number of affected people in the service area. Wastewater is a different and more complex matrix that those normally used in virology labs and is analytically challenging. Additionally there is an unknown distribution of the viral pieces between liquid and solid in the wastewater. Known levels of quantification are not yet known, but would have to be low enough to be able to compensate for the dilution of the virus in the wastewater in order to be useful. Already a researcher at Arizona State University (ASU) claims to be able to detect one affected individual in a population of 2 million. Others estimate 1-3 cases per 100,000 people. Additional problems on the analytical side are getting representative samples, developing rigorous QA/QC protocols, unknown matrix effects, and unknown fate and transport of coronavirus.

    Once detected in wastewater, there are additional formidable challenges of correlating the level of coronavirus in the wastewater to the level of COVID infection in the population. This requires knowledge of the population, flow, temperature, time in the sewer, industrial/residential discharge ratios, the fecal shedding rate per person, and many other factors. It will apparently also require knowledge of the average size of human poop. (No need to set up a study for this though. A professor at MIT has already determined this. It is 200 grams.)

    Despite the challenges, the promise of WBE/ES - that wastewater could give us both an early warning of, and an accurate measure of COVID in the population – is enticing. It could detect COVID 19 in a population before there have been any confirmed cases. It could indicate when a second or third wave is beginning. It would be faster than individual testing. It would include asymptomatic carriers and would be more representative of the spread of the disease than the current biased numbers that are low since they are hindered by testing availability. It would be specific to each sewershed, so response measures could better meet specific needs. It could be scalable; from the entire service area of a large WRRF down to a sewer from a single neighborhood, school, or assisted living facility. Testing would be cheap, the sample abundantly available.

    The study of analytes in wastewater as they relate to current issues in the service population is not new. Illicit drugs, malaria, salmonella, other viruses, etc. have all been looked at in wastewater. Each case provides its own challenges, but they all confirm the interesting hidden value of wastewater, and its important relationship to its service area. And in this current crisis, it is another reminder of the important work that everyone in the water field does!

    Please find references below. I also used some information from the Closing Ceremony of the WRF Virtual International Water Research Summit on Environmental Surveillance of Indicators of COVID 19 in Sewersheds, April 30, 2020. Please let me know if you would like more information, or if you have an interesting addition!

    Rich MacAlpine is a Laboratory Supervisor at Metro Wastewater Reclamation District. 





    Arizona State University. "Novel coronavirus detected, monitored in wastewater." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases

  • 25 Mar 2020 9:02 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    A few weeks ago, I was finalizing details for an upcoming trip to Paris and Bath, UK when I received an email from Natalie reminding me that I was due for a Blog post for the RMWQAA website.  It just so happened that I was simultaneously looking at a map of the small town of Saltford where the Airbnb I had booked for the trip was located. Less than a mile from the cottage was the Saltford Treatment Works.   “Brilliant idea!” I thought to myself.   I hoped I could pop over to the wastewater plant and see how the Brits are doing things.  I did some searching online, found Wessex Water on Facebook, and sent a message.  They were happy to arrange a tour of their facility for me.  Splendid!

    Wessex Water is a district that serves about 2.8 million people in the areas of Bristol, Bath, Somerset, Dorset and nearby areas.  These cities are all in southwest England, west of London, and bordering Wales.  Although Wessex runs like a district, it is owned by YTL Power International out of Malaysia.

    On the morning of my visit, I drove past the Avon River where Wessex Water discharges.  Due to a storm named Henry, the river had recently topped its banks and flooded the road so I felt lucky to have a clear day for the Assistant Treatment Manager Julian Collins to show me around.

    Originally built in 1914, the Saltford Treatment Works originally had four (4) basins made of brick. They are still in use today.   Across the pond, they report in Liters per Second, which meant I had to do some conversions to figure out the facility’s current capacity.   Side note:  When looking for conversion calculators, I discovered there are American gallons and English gallons.  Plant capacity is between 11 and 13 MGD depending on which factors you use.   

    Much of the treatment is the same as in Colorado.  The difference is they have combined sewer and storm systems.  Large dedicated basins catch the overflow and provide containment during rain events.  Their Environment Agency regulates the industry and has minimum and maximum “consents” comparable to permit limits of similar capacity facilities.  


    Their Guidance Document details permit regulations.

    In contrast to the older, smaller Saltford plant is the Wessex Water Operations Center in Bath also within the Wessex District.  The district runs all operations from their state-of-the-art green building, built using as much recycled material as possible.  The building is equipped with solar power heating, rainwater collection and use, and eco-friendly everything!  Security is top notch too. They even use fingerprint and retina scans. 

    Wessex Water’s sister company, Geneco, operates multiple liquid waste treatment facilities that handle a variety of industrial and domestic wasteloads including dairy, septic, industrial cleaning products, landfill leachate, and food waste.  All residents have a food waste bin that is put out for regular collection along with the recycle and rubbish bins each week.   Food waste goes to the main facility in Bristol for large scale composting.  Sludge from the Saltford Treatment Works is also processed in Bristol for later biosolids application and generation of power from biogas. 

    There’s much more to Wessex Water and all of their operations, but I will have to check out the rest on my next visit.  In the meantime, it’s great to have new colleagues and contacts across the pond.  Cheers!

    Map taken from WessexWater.org

    Michelle Neilson, Water Quality Technician, has been with Metro Wastewater for over 11 years.  She has a B.S. in Chemistry, and has 22 years of experience in the Environmental field.  Michelle has worked for USGS, contract laboratories, and several municipal wastewater and drinking water labs prior to Metro Wastewater. 

  • 18 Feb 2020 9:46 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    The prominent days that we think of for the month of February are typically Valentine’s day and President’s day celebrated on February 14th and 17th respectively. However, there is another important day that is celebrated worldwide on February 2nd: World Wetlands day.  World Wetlands day (WWD) raises global awareness about the value of wetlands and originated in 1971 when the Convention on Wetlands was formed in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.1 The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.2 The first celebration of WWD was in 1997 and continues to be celebrated today by government and community groups by promoting conservation, restoration, and the proper use of wetlands.

    According to the EPA, Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. 3 There are two general categories of wetlands, coastal or tidal and inland or non-tidal wetlands, which support various types of vegetation and both aquatic and terrestrial animal species largely determined by the hydrology of the habitat. The functionality of wetlands is also essential in an ecosystem by acting as a water filter, through the absorption of excess nutrients and other pollutants before they reach larger bodies of water, and providing flood and erosion control, by slowing and absorbing floodwaters during periods of excessive rain.4 Additionally, wetlands are economically important due to recreational popularity and the commercial fish and shellfish industry. However, these vital habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    Wetlands only account for 6% of the Earth’s land surface and are disappearing three times faster than forests due to factors such as development and climate change.5  This impacts 40% of the world’s plant and animal species that live or breed in wetland areas and threatens to deplete the rich biodiversity that these habitats provide.6 Thankfully, governments and other organizations recognized the enormity of these impacts and have now increased efforts toward the conservation and restoration of wetlands. The general public is encouraged to get involved through volunteer monitoring programs, participating in restoration projects, providing support through donations, and to continue the education outreach of why wetlands are so essential to our environment.


    1.) https://sws.org/Education-and-Outreach/world-wetlands-day.html

    2.) https://www.ramsar.org/

    3.) https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/what-wetland

    4.) https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/wetland.html

    5.) https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/wetlands-and-biodiversity-theme-world-wetlands-day-2020

    6.) https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/2081

    Ashley Romero is the Laboratory Manager at GEI Consultants, Inc. and has a background in ecotoxicology.

  • 28 Jan 2020 8:03 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Habits can have an enormous impact in the workplace—and we’re not just talking about nail-biting, junk food and cigarettes. Habits affect all aspects of a person’s behavior and they can influence how that person responds to the rules and regulations of a company, how they interact with their fellow employees and ultimately determine their performance level on the job.

    For most people, their habits are so ingrained it’s like they’re operating on autopilot when the habit kicks in. This is true for both good and bad habits; good habits can make us more efficient, and bad ones can get in the way of reaching goals. 

    Overcoming bad habits can be challenging, but being consciously aware of the change that needs to happen is the first step to establishing more effective habits.

    When creating new habits there are a few do’s and don’ts you should follow to make those habits stick. These same rules apply to replace a bad habit with a good one.

    First, you need to understand how habits work. Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, presented a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit consisting of three components: cue, routine and reward. In order to more fully understand your habits, you need to break down your own habit loop. 

    Start by asking yourself two questions: When does your bad habit happen? What is the cue (trigger) that sets it in motion? 

    It’s important to identify the cue as the beginning of the routine. The reward that comes at the end is what prompts the routine to continue. Here are a few tips when trying to override a bad habit.

    1. Change your cue. Without first identifying the trigger, it’s hard to make an adjustment when trying to change your habits. If you can control the cue it’s easier to maintain your commitment to change the habit. But you need to be aware of what triggers your habit. Once you’re able to consciously attribute the cue to the routine, you need to adjust that pattern to achieve a change in behavior. For example, if going to the cafeteria on break ultimately leads to you buying junk food, then you need to find a new location to have your break. The cafeteria is the cue that leads to the routine of buying the sweet reward of junk food. Because you want to change that pattern, a good start is to change the cue. 

    2. Make a substitution. Cutting out the cues isn’t always going to be an option when it comes to an emotional trigger like stress. If you try eliminating a bad habit based on willpower alone or by quitting cold turkey, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Once the cue is identified, substitute a good habit for your bad habit so that the trigger will inspire a new routine of actions with a similar reward.  For example, often people go for smoke breaks at work to handle stress. Cue: Stress. Routine: Go outside for a smoke. Reward: Relief from stress. In order to change the bad habit to a good habit, when the stress trigger sets in, keep the habit of going outside the same but don’t go where the smokers are. Instead, take a walk. You’re still getting the break and taking time to calm down from the stress but you’re getting exercise instead of smoking. Often in this situation, the smoker finds it wasn’t really the cigarette that brought them relief after all but the break of being outside. 

    3. Be realistic. When making habits, one rule of advice is that you have to be prepared to fail. This is not to say that you should give up before you start, rather it indicates that it’s going to be hard so you should anticipate setbacks and not allow them to derail you completely. There are a lot of things that people tell themselves when it comes to habits. These excuses include thinking you need to start all over when you’ve had a slip up. Rather than give up when you slip up, just be sure to get back on track and move forward in a positive and healthy way. Another thing to keep in mind is that you should start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your habits aren’t going to become automatic immediately either.

    Don’t forget, you don’t have to do it alone. Letting people know about your intentions of changing your bad habits will also invite those people to keep you accountable. And who knows, you may inspire them to make a positive change themselves.

    This Blog was originally posted by SafeStart and is re-posted here for educational purposes. Click here to link to the original blog post: https://safestart.com/news/how-to-replace-a-bad-habit-with-a-good-one/

  • 20 Dec 2019 10:38 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Wastewater is a valuable resource that can be reclaimed into many beneficial products. The mix of biological, chemical, and physical techniques used in this form of reclamation is forced to become more creative as discharge requirements become stricter. Nutrient requirements are a good example. As phosphorus and nitrogen limits drop for many wastewater treatment plants, we have to get creative to find new and cost effective ways to remove these analytes from our treated waters.

    Algae is one solution to our nutrient woes that is getting attention from different utilities and research groups. Algal treatment can be applied to treat for ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (cBOD). Low operational costs paired with the added sales of harvested fertilizer makes this technology realistic for many utilities.

    Gross-Wen technologies (GWT) has developed a revolving algal biofilm (RAB) system where algae grows on a treadmill-like belt that is suspended vertically above the wastewater. The belt rotates in and out of the wastewater allowing the algae to consume CO2, nitrogen, and phosphorus until it is harvested and used to make bioplastics and/or fertilizer.

    Fig. 1. Gross-Wen Algae Treatment Technology.

    Unlike most off the shelf organic brands of fertilizer, this algae fertilizer has slow-release properties that prevents nutrient leaching and polluting of our waterways.

    GWT installed a commercial pilot program at Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District in Chicago, Illinois. During the three-year study, 64 tons of algae was produced per day and $30 million a year was made from selling the pelletized algae. Researchers at GWT project that a commercial-scale facility could process between 200,000 and 1 million gallons of wastewater per day.

    CLEARAS is another research company using algae to clean wastewater and harvest recycled algal biomass. Their technique is different than GWT in that it directly mixes the algae into the nutrient-rich wastewater. After the recovery of nutrients and CO2, the mixture is filtered apart, leaving a clean water stream and a return activated algal stream. Results of their nutrient reductions are shown in Figures 2 and 3.

    Fig. 2. Total phosphorus results comparing influent and effluent. Data set includes 234 separate trials. Average incoming phosphorus = 1.91 mg/L. Average treated phosphorus = 0.02 mg/L.

    Fig. 3. Ammonia results comparing influent and effluent. Data set includes 234 separate trials. Average incoming ammonia = 14.09 mg/L. Average treated ammonia = 0.49 mg/L.

    CLEARAS claims that their system is zero-waste, incurs lower operation and maintenance costs due to the lack of chemicals used and disposed, produces ultra low-levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, biochemical oxygen demand, and total solids, and the ability to easily scale to your facility.

    Regulatory changes and needs of our communities create the opportunity for utilities to innovate systems to become more sustainable, clean energy based, and cost effective. When making choices in the future regarding nutrient removal, algal treatment systems may be a good fit for your utility.   

    Danny McCausland is a Laboratory Analyst for MWRD. He has 6 years of experience in the industry and holds a BA in Environmental Science from Metropolitan University of Denver.

    Full Website Links:

    1.     https://algae.com/

    2.     https://www.clearaswater.com/

  • 13 Nov 2019 10:15 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    The holidays are approaching fast, and with everything that needs to be done, this usually involves a higher level of water usage. Think: cooking a big meal, thawing out your turkey, and more bathroom breaks during the big Thanksgiving game. To help you cut down on your water usage, I’ve compiled some helpful tips to get you through the holidays:

    • Rather than thawing frozen food under running water, consider letting it thaw in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on the microwave. According to FoodSafety, the recommended time for thawing a turkey in the fridge is approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds.
    • Consider washing all your produce in a bowl of cold water instead of rinsing it under running tap water. This change can help to reduce the amount of water lost down the drain. Plus, the water leftover in the bowl can be reused for other purposes, such as watering plants around the house.
    • Rethink rinsing the dishes with running tap water and instead, let your dishes soak in a sink filled with soapy water. This simple shift uses significantly less water and has the added benefit of making clean-up a bit easier.
    • Food waste often leads to unnecessary water waste via the garbage disposal. To cut down on water usage, try to cook only what you need and cut down on the garbage disposal usage. Compost food scraps whenever possible, and when they are not compostable, tossing scraps in the trash is a better option than down the sink. Be sure also to avoid pouring any oils or grease down the drain as this can lead to clogged pipes -- and yes, resulting in more water usage.
    • When cooking vegetables, consider steaming as opposed to boiling. Steaming is a great way to conserve your water usage and has the added benefit of maintaining the nutritional value of the vegetables.  
    • Make the conscious decision only to run your dishwasher with full loads. Especially if you're hosting guests for a big meal, this shouldn't be too big of a problem with the high amount of dishes that you will be using. Cutting down on the number of times you run the dishwasher is a great way to reduce your household's water consumption.

    The holidays are a great time to spend time with the ones we love and to be thankful for all the wonderful things that our life provides. So, let us enjoy the holiday season, while also helping with water conservation in the process.

    Michael Hendricks is the Water Quality Supervisor for GEI Consultants, Inc. He has 4 years of experience in the industry and holds a BA in Biological Science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

  • 21 Oct 2019 9:41 AM | Tyler Eldridge (Administrator)

    In response to Richard’s Local Water News blog from earlier this year, this blog has been written to highlight some worldwide water news. As the new water year begins and the end of the calendar year approaches, here are five uplifting water stories that could help improve our quality of life down the road!

    • 1)     Agreements signed for the Reintroduction of Salmon to the Upper Columbia River:

    From Victoria News in Canada, three leaders of Indigenous groups and two governmental groups have agreed to begin the process of ensuring salmon can reach their once thriving numbers in the Upper Coloumbia River. For the last 80 years dams have prevented the salmon from traveling along their traditional migratory routes, many of these through the state of Washington. The lack of salmon making their traditional runs effects the entire ecosystem, so the First Nations and several governmental agencies made sure an agreement was signed to explore the best ways to reintroduce salmon. In turn, a way of life for the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa, and Secwepemc peoples and their communities could be restored as they will have access to these fish once again. There are, however, plenty of things to consider, such as the best way to manage dams to allow the fish through, climate change, and how the reintroduced salmon will interact with some endangered species now in the basin. This is progress though, and in a world where so many of our ecosystems are consistently fragmented, progress towards reconnecting them is what we need. Read the full story at Vicnews

    • 2)     Global Science Award Given to Teen for Microplastic Removal:

    From The Journal in Ireland, an 18 year old from Ballydehob was given the top award in the 2019 Google Science Fair. His project focused on the removal of microplastics from water using ferrofluids and magnets. The teen did point out that while not as effective on polypropylene plastics, it did show effectiveness with fibers found in washing machines. The experiment showed removal of 87% of microplastics in water samples, with a sample size of 1,000 tests. Could ferrofluids be our answer to the rising microplastic issues? Meet the 18 year old who believes so and watch his presentation video at TheJournal

    • 3)     Microfragmenting of Coral to Help Grow Back Coral Reefs:

    This story is from late 2018 and comes from Tech Maven. Coral reefs can take up to 75 years to reach sexual maturity in nature, however after a coral broke into pieces in the lab a new study was born! Researchers at the International Centre for Coral Reef Research and Restoration found that the corals grew back to their initial sizes in a few weeks rather than the three years it took to grow the original coral piece. What scientists found even more amazing was that once these fragments grew and they touched each other, they recognized themselves and fused together forming one large coral. This process speeds up coral growth by nearly 40 times! The restoration process is in full swing along the Florida Keys. Read more about the crew and check out their BBC Earth Video online at Sci-Techmaven

    • 4)     Creating Drinking Water from Air:

    A story from March this year in the Jerusalem Post provides insight on the Isreali company Watergen, a group determined to bring clean water to just about anywhere in the world just by pulling it out of the atmosphere. Their devices have been improved yearly since they were established in 2009, and have already provided aid in disaster locations across the world, included the United States! Essentially, the device pulls in air, filters the air, then through their heat exchange and cooling process condenses into water. Once filtered and hardened the water can be used as fresh drinking water. With just an electricity supply, the largest generator can create 5000 gallons of drinking water in a day. For more information on the company tackling a shortage of water around the globe visit the JPost

    • 5)     The Ocean Cleanup is Successfully Gathering Trash in the Pacific Ocean:

    This story comes out of the Netherlands and is the most recently updated story on this list. If you haven’t heard of The Ocean Cleanup it is worth following. The group was founded in 2013 with a goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using drifting systems and the ocean currents. The devices drift along the currents and collect plastic, and would just need to be “harvested” for their contents every few months by a small fleet of ships. In early October of this year they announced that the most recent prototype launched in June was successful in collecting and retaining both visible plastics and microplastics as small as 1mm. They still have much work to do in improving their design and growing their fleet, but once fully functional they hope to reduce the size of the garbage patch by half within the first 5 years! Obviously there is much to be done when it comes to cleaning up our oceans, but with companies like The Ocean Cleanup we are moving in the right direction. To learn more about the group, their design, and its sustainability check out their website at TheOceanCleanup.

    This blog was written by Tyler Eldridge, a Wastewater Laboratory Coordinator for the City of Greeley, and volunteers with RMWQAA as the main contact for website related issues. He has 3 years of experience in the industry and holds a BA in Biological Science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

    Full Website Links:

  • 26 Sep 2019 9:00 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) are not only a rapidly growing environmental and health concern but are increasingly being broadcasted in the news and raising public concerns. Hearing about a resident or pet’s health issues from a local lake can make you ask yourself, could this happen in my city’s local body of water and am I prepared to resolve the issue?

    Finding solutions to drinking water problems caused by algae is an ongoing challenge to the water industry from taste and odor, to filter clogging Diatoms, to harmful algal blooms of toxin-producing cyanobacteria. There is a widespread belief that the frequency and severity of surface water impairment by algae is increasing due to human impact, leading to higher nutrient levels in-stream and increased eutrophication. Algae may also be linked to droughts and the result of climate change. In addition to drinking water quality, there are growing concerns for lake and reservoir ecosystems.

    The EPA and CDPHE are moving in the direction of additionally creating more recreational guidelines and regulations to monitor concentrations of certain blue green algae, mainly Cylindrospermopsin, Anotoxin-A, and Microsystins. Dependent on whether the body of water must meet swimming standards or recreational standards, there are different guidelines for criteria excursions.

    The Environmental Protection Agency recommends the criteria in Table 1, but it is up to individual states to adopt these criteria. Table 2 summarizes the World Health Organization’s recreational guidance and action levels.

    Table 1: Recommended recreational criteria and swimming advisory criteria. Swimming advisory not to exceed on any day and recreation criteria not to exceed more than 10 percent of days per recreational season.



    8 ug/l

    15 ug/l

    Table 2: WHO recreational guidelines.

    Relative probability of Acute Health Effects

    Cyanobacteria (cells/mL)

    Chlorophyll a (ug/L)

    Estimated Microcystin Levels (ug/L




    < 10



    10 - 50

    10 – 20


    >100,000 – 10,000,000

    50 – 5,00

    20 – 2,000

    Very High




    If these numbers indicate a potential risk or vulnerability of HABs, it is recommended that your organization start implementing or update a proactive plan or SOP to monitor local lakes. This can be done in conjunction with local Parks Departments and/or water utilities department members. Monitor and set levels of concentrations at which potential risk for relative probability of acute health effects could affect the public. Look at modifying warning signs to prevent public contamination, research treatment options, and identify species with the CDPHE lab or a private lab to know for certain what you are dealing with. Check out CDPHE’s “Algae bloom risk-management toolkit for recreational waters” for more help in managing risk.

    There are options for treatment and monitoring that are becoming more advanced but also expensive. Chemical treatment has always been an option but is a recurring expense that might cause more harm to the ecological environment and potentially a temporary release of toxins depending on chemical solutions and concentrations. The addition of dissolved oxygen through blowers, aerators or mixers are all treatment options but also could come with energy costs. Ultrasonic treatment is another option but is depended on surface area of the body of water.

    Ultimately, it is a growing issue of concern, like all other emerging contaminants like TENORM and PFAS that needs more research and technology to mitigate the issue and understand prevention of toxin production, monitoring and identifying strategies and possible treatment options for the goal of public health and safety.

    John Winterton works for the City of Northglenn as the Laboratory Supervisor. He's been with Northglenn for 3.5 years for lab and operations but recently moved to his current position. Prior to that, he worked as a lab technician for the Chicago land area for 5 years. He holds a Class A wastewater license in Colorado and a Class B Water for Illinois. John is not an expert in the field of HABs and identifying algae species, but he has taken on the topic as it has been a growing concern in Northglenn and statewide.


    CDPHE Algae Bloom Risk-Management Toolkit

    EPA Recommendations for Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxin Monitoring in Recreational Waters

  • 27 Aug 2019 6:00 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Have you ever judged a science fair? Science fairs are held on levels from individual school fairs up to the state science fair.  I have been volunteering for several years now and I am always amazed at the ideas many young scientists are developing.  Science fair participants are budding young scientists and as a judge you can help them to improve their scientific method and investigative skills. Inspire them to be better researchers and problem solvers.

    There is also an exchange of inspiration.  These are not the typical solar system model, lava volcano science fair projects that were presented in the days of old.  Many students are aware of issues we deal with in the world around us and they are looking for solutions.  Some of the projects from this year include:

    • Development of imaging tools used for medical diagnosis, faster MRI scanning;
    • A computer aided surgical tool for precision spinal surgery;
    • Studying the effects of antibiotics consumed by humans on resistance of E. coli in water systems.

    Participant’s passion is displayed when they are explaining their projects.  The reward of seeing the twinkle in their eye, even when they know you don’t grasp all the information they are presenting.  A lot of time and energy are invested in the research for these projects and science fairs are not possible without judges. 

    The new school year has started, and science fair season will begin soon as well.  If you have the opportunity, judge a science fair and share in fostering the next generation of scientists. 

    By Adele Rucker

  • 26 Jul 2019 8:16 AM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

    Has this situation ever happened to you in your lab?

    Something goes wrong with a test, so you order a new chemical and the new chemical fixes the problem. You are happy your problem is fixed, but you are stuck with a batch of chemical that you don’t want to keep around in your lab since it may have been the source of the problem. You decide to dispose of it, but when you pull out your Safety Data Sheet (SDS), under disposal considerations, it says: “Dispose of in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations.” You think, what the heck does that mean? Where do I go to track down this information? You are stuck holding on to a bottle of chemical that you are 95% sure can go into the trash but you want to do things correctly for the environment and follow all the rules. What do you do?

    I went to a few different places to scope it out. I started on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website and checked out their SDS page.  There I learned that the disposal considerations section is listed as “Non-Mandatory”. Huh? I guess proper disposal isn’t so important. In fact, sections on regulatory, transport, and ecological information are also non-mandatory. Sorry little fishes and other creatures of the world. That isn’t to say that disposal doesn’t matter to OSHA, they still have high expectations that hazardous materials are properly disposed of. Upon further reading, the reason they don’t enforce disposal is because other agencies enforce it and someone else has it covered.

    Who is that someone else?   How do you know what jurisdiction disposal falls under? Well, that’s a good question. The American Veterinary Medical Association explained waste regulation the best, “Simply put, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the disposal of products with environmental impact; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates factors associated with potential employee exposure to hazardous substances; the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides guidance pertaining to products used in the workplace that impact human and public health; and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulates the disposal of controlled substances.” That’s a lot of regulators!

    Despite all these agencies involvement, ultimately proper disposal is up to the disposer. So how do you figure out what to do? I eventually stumbled upon a citation for an actual list of regulated hazardous waste listed in the Code of Federal Regulations. In 40 CFR § 261 Subpart D lists out the categories of hazardous wastes, and within each category, the types of waste or the specific chemicals that are classified as hazardous. For the individual chemicals, the list includes the chemical name, hazardous waste classification number, CAS number, and information on why it is listed as hazardous (i.e. toxic, flammable, corrosive, etc…).

    Verification of your chemical on EPA’s list is not enough. In some cases, state regulations are more stringent than the EPA regulations, so you still need to check with your state to see if the compound is hazardous or not. All states should have some guidance on this. In Colorado, it is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Colorado Hazardous Waste Regulations, Part 261 Identification and Listing of Hazardous Waste”. Pages 84-105 have a similar list to the EPA’s where you can check to see if it is on the list.

    Even then it may not be enough. If you are planning on dumping the chemical down the drain, you will also need to check with your local wastewater treatment plant. If you are the local WWTP, hopefully you already know what is allowed down the drain and what isn’t. If not, check in with your pretreatment department to see what guidance document they have on waste disposal. You should also check with your solid waste provider. I had a hard time finding any info on hazardous waste disposal for Denver, but Denver actually has a customer technical assistance line that could likely answer some questions. 

    Unfortunately, the search for the appropriate disposal does not end here. Once you know whether you are dealing with hazardous or non-hazardous compounds, you still need to dispose of it properly. This is still a bit of a mystery to me. It appears non-hazardous waste can be disposed of in the trash, but I don’t know of that is 100% true. Some guidance mentioned that bottles should be rinsed and the label removed, but it didn’t sound like a must. I searched 40 CFR and CDPHE’s website for non-hazardous waste disposal and came up with nothing. I’m sure this information is out there. The search continues…

    If you have knowledge of more in depth instructions or information on waste disposal, please contact a RMWQAA board member, reply to this post, or start a discussion in the forum, so that our membership can be more informed. 

    Natalie Love is the Laboratory Director at GEI Consultants, Inc. GEI conducts Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Testing, low-level nutrient analysis, and benthic macroinvertebrate identifications. She lives in Denver with her husband, 2 daughters, and mastiff.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software