Continual Improvement through Investment, Training, and Creative Ideas
A DSRSD core value is to constantly increase efficiency even as we increase or maintain the level of service we provide to customers and the community. The projects below provide recent examples of increasing efficiency through prudent capital investments, training, and creative ideas that improve work processes.
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Lab Equipped and Certified for Cost-Effective, In-House Analysis
Situation: 10,000 Tests a Year Needed to Protect Public Health and the Environment
The District's five-person laboratory staff—two chemists, two technicians, and a supervisor—run approximately 10,000 tests each year on samples of wastewater, drinking water, recycled water, groundwater, and biosolids in order to report to regulatory agencies at required intervals. The District's operations staff also rely on test data to optimize wastewater treatment processes and monitor the quality of potable and recycled water distributed to customers.
Solution: In-House Analysis Shaves Monitoring Costs and Improves Reliability
Using its own equipment and staff saves the District an estimated $70,000 per year in outside laboratory expense. In-house analysis also provides test results more quickly and gives staff start-to-finish control of processes and data, improving reliability.
Senior Environmental Chemist Connie Sanchez tests water samples on an instrument that can detect contaminants to the level of a few parts per trillion.
In 2012, the District invested $170,000 in an Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) instrument in order to do required trace metals analyses in-house. Only a handful of Bay Area laboratories use ICP-MS technology, which can detect contaminants down to the level of a few parts per trillion.
In 2013 the District earned state certification to use the ICP-MS instrument for monthly metals tests on wastewater effluent before it is discharged into San Francisco Bay. In 2014, the lab earned the separate certification needed to analyze groundwater for metals. The District tests groundwater samples from 14 monitoring wells located around the wastewater treatment facility twice a year. And in 2015, the lab earned certification for analyzing lead and copper in drinking water samples drawn directly from customer taps. This monitoring is required every three years and was done most recently in 2016.
In addition to ICP-MS, the DSRSD lab is equipped and certified to conduct:
- Flow Injection Atomic Spectroscopy for Atomic Absorption (FIAS-AA), used for mercury analysis in water and wastewater;
- Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), used to analyze organic volatiles in wastewater and disinfection by-products in water; and
- Ion Chromatography (IC), used to analyze anions (fluoride, chloride, sulfate, nitrite, nitrate, and ortho-phosphate) in water and wastewater.
In all, the District’s lab is certified in 54 fields of testing by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP).
It takes considerable staff expertise to earn accreditation for a new testing field. The laboratory must develop standard operating procedures for collecting and analyzing samples and documenting results, pass performance evaluation studies for all applicable test parameters, and meet quality control requirements for accuracy and precision. ELAP re-certifies the laboratory’s accreditation every two years.