Tips for determining water testing needs based on application
There are differing opinions on how to define the commercial and industrial water treatment markets. In the water treatment industry, when we think about commercial applications, we think of businesses like restaurants, hotels, camps, laundromats and hospitals. Many think that any businesses in which water can end up in the hands of an end user would be considered commercial. Industrial applications tend to be in manufacturing and research facilities, where water may play a role in manufacturing. When I think about industrial applications, I also think about water that can be recycled for drinking water or other water use applications.
The Importance of Testing
When dealing with commercial or industrial applications, testing becomes more important and actually may be a requirement. For example, a commercial application might fall under the definition of a public water supply and be subject to testing based on the Safe Drinking Water Act, or a company may have its own internal testing requirements to ensure water meets certain quality criteria.
Regardless of whether it is required or not, testing should be conducted to avoid possible costly pitfalls. In some instances, the water may need to be tested several times over a certain period, as quality can fluctuate and equipment should be sized for worst-case scenarios. When treating water with chemical additives, whether it is for corrosion control or disinfection, jar testing can be helpful in determining the proper dosage levels. For chlorination, other contaminants in the water can tie up the added chlorine, so testing can be done to determine the precise level of chlorine to ensure the water is microbiologically safe.
It is important to apply the proper dosage for disinfection, but not so much that it can cause the formation of too many byproducts. Treatment chemicals can be expensive, so making sure you are not overdosing can add up to significant savings. Chemical costs are ongoing, so if customers feel they are paying too much, they could shop around, and if you are adding more chemical than is needed, a competitor could easily step in and offer savings.
What to Test
A testing plan can be beneficial depending on the complexity of the project. Testing will be based upon the original quality of water that is to be treated, how it will be treated and the desired final quality. It is a good idea to order a full inorganic panel because these contaminants can commonly interfere with some treatment equipment. It is a good idea to know what is there to start.
Some testing easily can be done on site, while other testing is best done at a certified laboratory. Certain tests are more accurate when performed on site, like pH and chlorine, so invest in the onsite testing options that work best for you and your team. Other tests like total dissolved solids, iron and hardness are easily run in the field with minimal interference and can indicate common problems to be treated. You may want to invest in testing equipment for these contaminants, as well. Testing in the field can be more cost- effective, but do not sacrifice accuracy. Use a laboratory to confirm at least some of the results.
Also keep in mind customer expectations. Customers may appreciate seeing the results of a test done by a laboratory. In fact, using a laboratory analysis in a proposal for treatment shows professionalism and can help win more jobs.
Necessity of laboratory certification depends on the situation. If the application includes a public water supply, a certified laboratory is required. Make sure the lab used is certified for everything that will be tested, and look for a lab that is certified in the state in which the samples are taken.
If the application is not a public water supply, you can consider using any laboratory, but there are several factors to consider. You will want to use a laboratory that has some kind of certification, even if it is from another state, or an accreditation through the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program or the International Organization for Standardization. This indicates the laboratory follows good practices and is regularly audited. Also, you may consider the testing methods the laboratory runs, as some laboratories may be running a version of the colorimetric method you may be running in the field.
For example, the methods commonly run in the field for iron use phenanthroline to produce a color change that is measured. This method is based on a method that labs may get certified to run. Other common methods include inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometer, which can be a more accurate method and is not susceptible to the interferences to which field methods are. Some labs will have their certificates posted on their websites for easy reference to the methods they run. More information about the methods can be found at www.nemi.gov with a search for a specific contaminant or the method number. Method summaries are provided and, in the case of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methods, the entire method can be downloaded.
When it comes down to it, testing is critical for commercial and industrial applications. These types of applications tend to be bigger, so equipment and labor can be significantly more expensive, and mistakes can be costly to correct. In addition to labor and equipment costs, if your system does not work as it needs to, it can cost the customer additional money if he or she needs to close for repairs or stop production. If the customer is losing money because of mistakes, this could lead to litigation that costs even more.
Asking the right questions about the application and putting together a plan that includes testing can put you ahead of your competition and build referral business. When planning commercial or industrial projects, include testing in the proposal, as most commercial and industrial applications are critical, and there is less resistance to the cost of testing.