Meet the Lab
There is water on the floor in the Water Quality Association (WQA) laboratory. This is a constant issue. There is also water on the lab analysts’ clothing and occasionally in their hair. With so much testing going on, it’s little wonder why water is found everywhere.
The test capabilities of the WQA laboratory and its people seem to be growing by leaps and bounds. The lab performs product certification testing as well as research and development testing of products for use with drinking water. They perform testing for pool and shower units, too. Quality and efficiency are key priorities for the lab, especially while expansion and rapid development are underway.
Test set-ups are springing up like flowers in May. One example is point-of-entry (POE) systems. (POE systems are used for treating water at the incoming water supply source for a home or other building.) POE test set-ups require a main water supply, chemical feed equipment, flowmeters and a variety of other instruments.
Emily Bolda, the WQA lab supervisor, has personally installed and overseen the set-ups of the three newest POE test stations. The rapid rate of growth is an occasional concern to her.
“We are going to be bursting at the seams soon,” Bolda said. “We have a good group working here, so we are able to keep up with the demand, but I am definitely having to get creative with the space.”
Bench openings for testing can get limited at times. Timeliness is ensured through careful management and arrangement of the test and bench schedule.
As well as managing the lab staff and testing, Bolda also performs analysis on samples that are generated from the various performance tests going on throughout the lab. The analytical room of the lab is her main domain. The lab has a graphite furnace, atomic absorption spectrometer, ion chromatograph and various other wet chemistry tools. The space on her counters is typically filled with samples waiting to be analyzed.
Organization is vital in keeping product testing on schedule. The lab uses a database to store all sample information, including sample numbers, test descriptions, analyses required and the results of those analyses.
Bolda works hard to ensure that the lab’s testing is kept on schedule. One of the things that the WQA lab prides itself on is getting testing done in a timely manner.
Continuing development and growth is evident everywhere, and within the last few months, the lab has added on a new employee.
“It’s been a bit of a baptism by fire,” said Jeff Vidmont, a recent hire. “There is so much work to be done. I am excited to be a part of the continuing development.”
Bolda, as well as other lab members, are supervising Vidmont’s training. Training is a team effort, and everyone is working on something different. Vidmont trains with the other lab members by working with them on their projects as well as by having them work closely with him on his projects.
To encourage the development and growth of all the lab members, training is an ongoing process for everyone. Skills are reinforced through weekly training sessions held each Friday on a variety of subjects.
Efficiency is another key element to keeping product testing on track. Analysts are always running multiple tests, which provides them an opportunity to sharpen their skills with testing different units.
Water Softener Testing
Tana Brady has long been honing her softener testing skills, and she has been hailed as the lab’s “Queen of Softeners.”
“I dream of the softeners now,” Brady said.
There are multiple benches set aside specifically for testing softeners. Almost all of these bench set-ups are in use. Brady is overseeing several of these projects, and she uses several timers to keep testing on track.
“You can’t just walk away from softener testing, they have to be regularly monitored,” Brady said.
The WQA lab understands these units and what they are capable of. Water softener testing is WQA’s most recognized performance testing ability.
Alongside Brady works Amy Griesbaum, the lab’s “Jack of All Trades.” Griesbaum can perform any and all testing that the lab performs. Testing that requires special needs is typically assigned to her. Griesbaum said that her work keeps her on her toes.
“I like the different challenges that I am presented with,” she said.
Griesbaum is currently working on a water softener research and development testing project. She is also performing a reverse osmosis system test, a pitcher filter extraction test and a structural integrity test. She is using the most benches in the lab for her testing.
Bench space for analysis is a premium commodity in the lab. While the lab is organized and well-maintained, analysts are often bumping into each other during testing. With the recent addition of another analysis bench, the assistant lab supervisor has been relocated to a desk space outside of the lab.
The assistant lab supervisor is responsible for the verification of testing and data, an increasingly and extremely important part of the laboratory. While having a location outside of the lab might seem inefficient, the goal is that it will prove to be beneficial for increased concentration and more effective verification.
“That may be the answer pretty soon,” Bolda said. “All of our desks will have to be outside the lab to make way for more benches and test set-ups.” In order to further accommodate space challenges, extraction testing is also being relocated.
The recent addition of the soon-to-be-completed extraction room is adding to the lab’s capabilities.
So why is there water everywhere, and what is to be done about it? It’s the test unit installation that sprays everything. It’s the constantly-made, giant tanks of water that keep it humid. The lab has several dehumidifiers and fans going at all times in an effort to keep the place dry; however, each time a new project is installed, water gets on the floor.
With the lab’s current rate of expansion and its increased capabilities, there will always be water somewhere. A dry day would be a strange day indeed.