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Jar Testing - Small Scale Analysis for the Big Picture

by Energy Technical Services on 12/08/14

Blog written by Lennette West 11/25/2014

With the rising cost of chemicals and the shortage of man hours, finding the best way to run a water or wastewater plant can be overwhelming.  Not to mention trying to keep up with ever tightening environmental regulations.  Jar testing may be your best way to assess current options.  Jar testing tries to mimic, on a small scale, what could happen in your plant.  It allows you the freedom to try different chemicals and amounts without changing the design of your existing plant. 

Jar testing involves taking some of the raw water, or wastewater, from the plant and mixing it with different compounds in the lab.  The lab can control the dosing rate of each chemical and the amount of time the water is in contact with the chemical.  Numerous parameters, such as pH, alkalinity, nutrients and other test are monitored during the testing.  It should be noted that whatever parameters are being monitored, a raw water sample from the plant is also tested.  You have to know what you are starting with to know if the process is working.   

Jar testing is used for both drinking water treatment and waste water treatment.  With recent regulations from both the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), unwanted and harmful compounds have to be removed to below established health levels.  With drinking water treatment plants, this includes solids and organic compounds.  With wastewater treatment plants this includes nutrients that at high levels can cause algae blooms and dead fish in the receiving water body.  Adding chemicals to an existing process can help with this required removal without redesigning the plant.  

Another advantage of the jar test process is finding what works at your facility.  There is a great deal of good products out there and they all claim they are the best.  But what works well at some plants may not work as efficiently at yours.  

Also, what works well in the summer may not work as well in the winter.  Jar testing can also help to adjust dosing rates.  More may be needed in the summer but if you are dosing the same rate year round, you may be wasting chemicals and spending more money.


Sample being dosed with Alum

Sample being mixed well 

Samples are mixed for varying amounts of time

After settling, sample is measured for pH and other parameters

If you would like more information or to run jar testing for your facility, please give us a call to discuss your specific needs.

City of Northport Wastewater Treatment Plant

by Energy Technical Services on 11/24/14

ETS recently made a field trip to Northport's Wastewater Treatment Plant! Employees found the visit very informative and educational pertaining to the work we do here at ETS.  If you are a Northport, AL resident, we highly recommend making a visit to the Wastewater Treatment plant to see what happens when YOU flush your toilet!


Check out some photographs of the plant:

Taken from the wastewater filtering point, one of Northport's clarifiers can be seen here, as well as the office in the background.  Wastewater flows into this plant at a rate of millions of gallons per day, and goes through a rigorous process to remove the initial solids that come with wastewater, such as paper towels, toiletries,  and just about any other piece of waste that could come to mind.

An upclose shot of one of the clarifiers.  The "sifter" type arm spins around continually to romove solids from the watewater.  This clarifier is roughly 10-15 feet underground.  

This is another clarifier.  Northport has three clarifiers total at their wastewater treatment plant.  

Northport's water being chlorinated.  

Some of ETS' crew.  It was a VERY cold day the day we visited, and wastewater treatment stops at no temperature.  

Please check out your local wastewater treatment plant if you ever get the chance. All municipalities are required to give their residents a tour if requested.  They are happy to show residents around their facility, as it is not somewhere most people want to look around.   Wastewater treatment plants are a very valuable and important part of the way we live our life today. 

 Here are some tips on how to reduce wastewater and to make your local wastewater treatment plant work better:

  • Do not flush anything besides toilet paper down the toilet.  Feminine products should be thrown in the trash.
  • Do not dump any type of chemical or cleaning product in your sink, toilet, or bathtub.  
  • Check all household plumbing and appliances annually (at least) for any leaks or drips.  Learn how to read your water meter to check for leaks too. 
  • Try not to run large appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers unless you have a full load of material.  
  • Stay informed!

Tuscaloosa and Alabama Navigation: A History

by Energy Technical Services on 11/17/14

The location of the city of Tuscaloosa was positioned at the head of navigation for the Black Warrior River system.  The head of the river was approximately where The University of Alabama campus is located.  North of the headwater, the river was mostly made up of shoals and a creek which could be crossed by foot.  

The upper limit for river navigation was significant since farmers and traders in the area could transport their goods to Tuscaloosa on wagons or train to be loaded on ships that could travel to Mobile and eventually overseas.  To facilitate this, the first act of the Alabama legislature, two days after being granted statehood in 1819, was the designation and funding of the Byler Road, which extended from Courtland (near the Tennessee River) to Tuscaloosa.  The Byler Road is still a major artery for West Alabama:  loosely in the form of U.S. Highway 43.  Remnants of the original road can still be seen at various locations.  

In part due to the emphasis that Tuscaloosa and the Byler Road placed on navigation in Alabama, subsequent construction of the lock and dam system was initiated in the late 1800’s.  The lock and dam system extended the reach of the Black Warrior River and provided an untold economic impact to the coal mining industry in Alabama.

This blog piece was written by Mike Williams, President of ETS.

Understanding Quality Control: A Case Study

by Energy Technical Services on 11/10/14

Understanding Quality Control is a series written by Kailey Dickens, environmental lab manager at ETS. The series focuses on real quality control issues and solutions as experienced in the lab at ETS.

A laboratory information management system, commonly referred to as LIMS, is a software-based laboratory platform for storing many types of information related to sample analyses. LIMS is a useful tool in a laboratory for storing customer information, sample information, analyses, methods, procedures, instrument maintenance schedules, and workflow schedules.

One of the most useful aspects of LIMS to a laboratory is the ability to monitor quality control over time. In the below case study of copper, it’s important to see why control charts are useful tools for trouble shooting lab related issues.

The below chart references the laboratory fortified blank (LFB) control sample, analyzed with each batch of 20 copper samples. The copper LFB is made at a 0.1 ppm to fit into the copper calibration curve. The majority of plotted LFBs on this chart indicated that the process is in control. However, 2 major outliers occur in succession of one another, on consecutive days.


As the lab manager, interpreting this data is key to understanding what is happening in the lab. Is the instrument running inconsistently? Have the standards expired? Were the samples prepared improperly? Were the correct samples run? Was the data recorded properly, and transcribed correctly?

The first thing to note is that the 2 outliers are hovering very closely around 0.5 ppm.

Following the paper trail, the bench sheet shows what the culprit for the out of control LFB is:

The LFB was made at a 0.5 ppm instead of a 0.1 ppm.

Quality control is a compound process. Many different elements constitute the elaborate procedures used to insure quality is achieved: people, chemicals, methods, instruments, sample preparation, etc. At any time in the process, these components are bound to produce errors.  

Finding the solution is not always as easy as identifying technician error; many times it is a combination of several factors that can take weeks or months to uncover. Utilizing LIMS offers a clear picture of when a process is out of control.

ETS Employee Appreciation Day 2014

by Energy Technical Services on 10/31/14

ETS' Annual Employee Appreciation Day! What a beautiful Alabama day for it!

Barbeque for everyone, of course!

We might need some more chairs for next time!

ETS has a wonderful, dynamic team of employees, and their hard work does not go unnoticed.  THANK YOU everyone at ETS for everything that you do!