Successful trial for new remote Phosphate monitor!

12/12/2014

Researchers at Britain’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) have conducted trials on the river Thames to evaluate a new remote phosphate monitoring technology (Cycle-P) as part of a high-frequency (hourly resolution) monitoring programme that is studying river nutrient concentrations and how they are affected by algal abundance. The monitoring system ran continuously over the summer of 2014, measuring total reactive phosphate levels in the river, day and night, seven days a week.

CEH_ThamesTrial2014

These results have now been compared with manually collected samples that were analysed in a laboratory with the traditional Murphy and Riley spectrophotometric method on unfiltered samples, and Dr Mike Bowes, senior nutrient hydrochemist at CEH, says: “The Cycle-P is working really well; the system operated independently for long periods and produced results that tracked our lab samples closely.”

Most water quality parameters are relatively simple to measure with low-power accurate sensors. However, the measurement of phosphate necessitates colorimetric analysis and this presents a significant challenge in remote locations with difficult access or where mains power is not available. The Cycle PO4 from OTT Hydrometry (known as the Cycle-P) is therefore gathering considerable interest because it is battery powered and able to operate unattended in the field, running over 1,000 tests before a field service is necessary to change the reagents.

The Cycle-P is an in-situ total reactive phosphate analyser that has been designed for operation by non-chemists. Combining microfluidics with state-of-the-art optics to provide high levels of precision and accuracy, the Cycle-P stores results in an onboard logger, but when combined with telemetry, delivers almost real-time data at user-selectable intervals (typically 1 to 4 hours). The quality of the instrument’s data is underpinned by QA/QC processing in conjunction with an on-board NIST standard. The Cycle-P methodology is based on US EPA standard methods, employing pre-mixed onboard colour coded cartridges for simple reagent replacement in the field.

Phosphate is a key nutrient in the maintenance of aquatic animal and plant life. However, it is also considered to be one of the most important pollutants in surface waters. Excessive quantities, through natural accumulation or derived from human activities such as wastewater treatment and agricultural runoff, can stimulate excessive growth of algae – algal blooms. This reduces light for plants and can lead to oxygen depletion, bacterial growth and eutrophication. In addition, some algal blooms produce toxins that are harmful to other organisms. High phosphate concentrations can therefore cause enormous ecological and aesthetic damage to streams, lakes, canals, rivers and oceans.

The River Thames basin is facing growing pressures from rapid population growth, intensive agriculture, climate change and water resource challenges. Researchers are therefore investigating the changes in water chemistry and ecology that are taking place as water quality improvements are implemented under the EU Water Framework Directive. These monitoring activities provide vital scientific evidence that inform future catchment management decisions.

thames_testDr Bowes has been running a Cycle-P in the Thames at Goring in Oxfordshire since 18th March 2014, as part of the CEH Thames Initiative Research Platform . He is head of the Water Quality Processes group, which has a long track record of using phosphorus auto-analysers, and is therefore an ideal person to assess the merits of this new technology. Furthermore, his research interests include: the impact of changing water quality on periphyton and phytoplankton biomass in rivers; nutrient loads to rivers from sewage and agriculture, and the identification of factors that control the timing and magnitude of algal blooms.

Mike has tried a number of phosphate monitoring technologies in the past but has found them to be either too unreliable or power-hungry. “Much of our work involves monitoring rivers in remote sites that do not have mains power, so I was naturally very interested to learn about the Cycle-P,” he explains. “Our research is designed to identify the causes of algal blooms and to understand the factors that trigger both blooms and algal dieback; the ability to monitor phosphate in remote locations is therefore critical to the success of our work, because manual or even automatic sampling for laboratory analysis, incurs significant delays and increases costs.”

“We were very pleased to be able to help with this research,” adds OTT Hydrometry’s Nigel Grimsley. “The impact of phosphates from agricultural run-off and wastewater treatment is one of the major issues affecting surface water quality and reliable continuous monitoring is essential if this issue is to be managed effectively.

“The Cycle-P has already worked extremely well in a variety of international projects, but it was vital for its capabilities to be demonstrated in UK waters, and the CEH Thames Initiative provided an ideal platform to do so. I am grateful to CEH for the opportunity that they have provided and I look forward to reporting feedback from a number of recent further UK installations.”


A fascinating story: Trash to gas project to help life on Mars!

30/11/2014
If you are travelling to Mars on a journey that will last for several months, you need to maintain good breathing air quality and you need to manage your resources very carefully. This article describes research on the off-gases from astronaut waste; checking that they are not harmful and figuring out if they can be converted into water, oxygen and rocket propellant.

As part of a project to measure the effects of long-term isolation on astronauts, small groups of individuals have been selected to live in a tiny ‘Habitat’ perched on the upper slope of a volcano in Hawaii. In doing so, the project team has contributed to the understanding of issues that would confront a manned mission to Mars.

NASA’s Anne Caraccio analyzing waste gases during simulated Mars mission

NASA’s Anne Caraccio analyzing waste gases during simulated Mars mission

For example NASA’s Anne Caraccio studied off-gases from the crew’s trash with a portable Gasmet FTIR gas analyzer. “Waste from the crew’s everyday activities are routinely sorted and stored, but we need to know the composition of the off-gases from these materials for health and safety reasons, and also to determine whether these gases could be utilised beneficially,” Anne reports.

The work was undertaken during the second of four HI-SEAS (Hawaiʻi Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) missions which involved living with 5 other crew members for a period of 120 days in a two-story solar powered dome just 11 metres in diameter with a small attached workshop the size of a shipping container. In addition to the completion of a range of tasks that were set by the project, each crew member conducted their own research, which in Anne’s case was known as ‘Trash to Gas’, a programme working on the development of a reactor to convert waste from long-duration missions into useful commodities such as water, life-support oxygen and rocket propellant.

The main objective of the second HI-SEAS mission was to evaluate the performance and the social and psychological status of the crew members whilst they lived in cramped isolated conditions in a lava rock environment that resembled Mars.

Crew members were allowed outside of the Habitat, but in order to do so they had to wear simulated spacesuits and undergo a 5 minute mock compression/decompression. Since the FTIR gas analyser is portable (14Kg), Anne was able to conduct additional monitoring both inside and outside the Habitat in order to compare data with the waste off-gas measurements. “Size, weight and portability are obviously of major importance on a project such as this, but the main advantage of this technology was its ability to measure a large number of compounds simultaneously; I measured 24 VOCs such as acetaldehyde, methane and ethylene, but the instrument also stores spectra for the measurements so it is possible to retrospectively analyze data if it becomes necessary to look for a particular compound at a later stage.”

Anne’s monitoring provided a clear view of the most important gases within the Habitat. For example, stored waste had the highest relative levels of ethanol (due to crew members’ hygiene wipes and cleaning products) and water vapor (due to residual water from food and plant waste). The laboratory where plants were growing had the lowest relative level of methane. The waste bins had higher relative levels of nitrous oxide and pentane, and the bathroom had the highest levels of acetaldehyde.

The FTIR gas analyser, a DX4040, was supplied by the company Gasmet Technologies. “We were very pleased to be able to help with this project,” says Gasmet’s Jim Cornish. “The simultaneous monitoring of multiple compounds is a common application for our FTIR analyzers, however, they are usually employed measuring gases in stack emissions, industrial processes, greenhouse gas research and in hazmat scenarios. We usually tell prospective customers that advanced FTIR technology is simple to use; ‘it’s not rocket science’ we tell them, so I guess we will have to rephrase that now.”

The waste produced during the HI-SEAS mission was measured during the entire mission, although this was for a shorter period than would be expected of an actual long duration mission. The Trash-to-Gas reactor processed HI-SEAS waste simulant at the Kennedy Space Center with results demonstrating that a future reactor would be most efficient with specific material processing cycles to maximize the desired output. Automation will also be needed in the future Trash-to-Gas reactor because the current technology would require too much of a crew member’s logistical time. The Trash-to-Gas reactor first converts waste into carbon dioxide, which is then mixed with hydrogen in a Sabatier reaction to produce methane and water.

The Kennedy Space Center Trash-to-Gas reactor processed three waste types and produced 9% of the power that would have been needed during the HI-SEAS mission. As part of the psychological assessment, each member of the crew completed regular surveys and kept diaries. They also wore ‘sociometric’ badges that recorded conversation patterns and voice tone.

Commenting on the psychological results of the project, Anne says “The crew were essentially strangers when they entered the Habitat, which is unlike a typical space mission in which the crew would have worked and trained together for a number of months or even years. Nevertheless, the crew coped extremely well with living and working in such close proximity, and there were no significant periods of stress in my opinion.”

The third Hi-SEAS mission began on October 15, 2014. Again, a 6 member crew will conduct a similar mission, with the exception that it will last for 8 months. Anne says: “Participation in these missions requires a real passion for science, technology and space travel. The application process includes a class 2 flight medical, a personal research project proposal, essays, interviews and educational requirements, all of which is similar to the NASA astronaut application procedure.” Looking forward, she says: “The technology to travel to Mars has not yet been fully developed, but it is anticipated that a human mission could be possible in the future. The journey to Mars would take around one year, so I hope that our Trash-to-Gas research will contribute to the science that could make such a mission possible.”


#WWEM14 “better, bigger, busier!”

21/11/2014
It is harder than ever to prize people away from their desks and laboratories these days, so it is all the more gratifying that WWEM continues to grow, with this year’s event attracting 15% more visitors than WWEM 2012 – that’s consistent growth with every event since the first in 2005.

Running over 2 days in early November, WWEM 2014 was an outstanding success, with sustained growth in every event since the first WWEM in 2005. “In comparison with the last WWEM in 2012, visitor numbers were up by 15% and even though the size of the exhibition was increased by 12% we were still unable to accommodate several potential exhibitors,” reports organiser Marcus Pattison.

WWEM2014WWEM 2014 focused on Water, Wastewater and Environmental Monitoring, and is comprised of a wide range of activities that are designed to update and inform anyone in the water sector with a professional interest in testing and monitoring. “WWEM 2014 was different,” explains Marcus Pattison, “previous WWEM events have included Conferences, Workshops and an Exhibition, but this year’s show also included a number of specialist forums, seminars and a demonstration area, and I believe that this is the major reason for the event’s continued growth. 30% of the exhibitors were so pleased that they re-booked during the show and it is clear that there will be an influx of new exhibitors from those companies that visited WWEM 2014 as delegates.”

Conference: ‘Regulation Updates for Process Operators’
The first day’s conference provided delegates with the latest information on the regulations, technologies and methods that are required for testing and monitoring the environmental emissions of regulated processes. This included advice from Rick Gould on how to obtain a good score in the Environment Agency’s Operator Monitoring Assessment (OMA) – a systematic tool for auditing the monitoring provisions required by legislation. Focusing on water quality monitoring, the Agency’s Andrew Chappell outlined many of the challenges faced by those responsible for this task and explained how the MCERTS scheme has underpinned the quality of monitoring. He also provided an update on the development of a CEN standard (BS EN 16479:2014) for automatic samplers and water quality monitoring equipment, and explained that this could be superseded by an ISO standard.

MCERTS is operated on behalf of the Environment Agency by Sira, and the British Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredits Sira to undertake MCERTS product and personnel certification. Sira’s Emily Alexander explained that whilst monitoring technology has advanced considerably, instrument performance has not always improved at the same rate, which underlines the need for independent testing and certification. Andy Godley from WRc then explained the testing procedure for instruments, both in the field and in the laboratory. Emphasising the need for robust traceable test programmes, Andy said: “Test plans should be agreed as early as possible and variations should be discussed as soon as they occur.”

Finally, Nick Richardson from Siris Environmental outlined ‘the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ of flow monitoring installations. His presentation featured photographs of good installations in addition to a broad selection of those that left room for improvement. The most common errors highlighted were: non-MCERTS compliant design; over-sized or under-sized installations; poorly designed access for maintenance; installations that are difficult to verify or calibrate, and installations at which the wrong system had been deployed (e.g. weir on inlet).

Laboratory Conference: Accreditation, Innovation and Communication
The second day’s Conference was hosted by the BMTA (British Measurement and Testing Association) and was aimed primarily at managers and senior staff in environmental laboratories, but the techniques and quality procedures discussed were also of interest to staff in other types of laboratory. The presentations dealt with the methods of achieving quality and consistency in sampling and in laboratory measurements, and the speakers represented the national accreditation body, UKAS, large water companies and commercial laboratory-based organisations.

Speakers from UKAS explained that all accredited laboratories should participate in proficiency testing where such schemes are available and relevant to their scope of accreditation. They also provided an outline of TPS 47, the UKAS document on Participation in Proficiency Testing Schemes, which describes the evaluation of participant performance against pre-established criteria by means of inter-laboratory comparisons.

Hazel Davidson from Derwentside Environmental Testing Services (DETS) then explained some of the issues relating to good sampling technique and described how lower limits of detection can be achieved by improved techniques, advanced instrumentation and by using larger sample volumes.

Professor Clive Thompson and Paul Gribble from ALcontrol delivered a presentation entitled: ‘Sampling and analysis in relation to the Priority Substances Directive 2012/39/EU’ in which they explained that some of the environmental quality standards limits that have been set are unrealistically low, “almost to homeopathic levels!” they said. Highlighting the enormous cost incurred by testing for extremely low levels of a large number of compounds, the speakers called for more realistic regulations. “Regulators should liaise with analysts when setting limits, and a group of accredited laboratories should be established to work together to develop achievable standards (similar to MCERTS).”

Explaining the advantages of a new mobile sample tracking technology Kyle Norris from the Water Quality Sampling Team at Northumbrian Water, and Sam Goddard from CSols Ltd gave a presentation on ‘Remote Sampler’, a secure mobile data capture system. Each water sampling technician operates remotely with a handheld device linked through a central hub to a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The system improves sample data quality by reducing transcription errors while allowing existing accredited sampling procedures to be followed.

South West Water, in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth and Natural Resources Wales, have developed methods using the Chemcatcher™ passive sampler to monitor for a range of acid herbicides including Mecoprop and MCPA, and the molluscicide Metaldehyde in surface waters. This subject was addressed by Lewis Jones, South West Water’s Future Quality Obligations and R&D Manager, who outlined the development of a Chemcatcher-based sampling method for the monitoring of polar pesticides in water.

In the final presentation, Bob Poole from Thermo Fisher Scientific explained how today’s laboratory software can be applied to deliver a fully automated, efficient and intelligent approach to sample receipt and scheduling, resource management, collecting, processing and acting upon results, and securely managing the vast amounts of data produced.

BMSS Seminar
A further laboratory seminar was organised by the Environmental and Food Analysis Special Interest Group, EFASIG, which is a special interest group of the British Mass Spectrometry Society (BMSS). Entitled ‘The application of chromatography-mass spectrometry to environmental water analysis’ the seminar ran in the afternoon of the first day at WWEM 2014. Nine speakers from academia, commercial laboratories, instrument manufacturers and industrial companies provided short presentations focusing on specific environmental analytical challenges.

Flow Forum and Apprentice Competition
Hosted by Oliver Grievson from the Water Industry Process Automation & Control Group, the morning of the first day saw Instrumentation Apprentices from Anglian Water, Thames Water and Welsh Water gather at the Flow Forum where they were given a variety of scenarios/challenges to complete. They were then sent off into the exhibition to talk to the plethora of suppliers that held the key to their questions.

Oliver Grievson then described the experiences that he had gained from a programme of 80 flow meter installations during 2012. This demonstrated that the main cost was with the installation of flow meters rather than the flow meters themselves. Following this a presentation by Simon Richardson of Siris Environmental demonstrated where installations have typically gone right and wrong. He highlighted the case of a flume at Coltishall Wastewater Treatment Works which was an ‘ideal’ installation, and also cited others where installations were less than ideal.

WWEM2014Eight different suppliers then gave presentations on traditional technologies such as ultrasonic and time of flight flow measurement to the newer technologies involving microwave, laser and radar. The eight presentations covered ultrasonic level, time of flight ultrasonic, Coriolis mass flow measurement, radar non-contact area velocity, radar level, area velocity, laser non-contact area velocity and microwave flow measurement.

An open question session finished off the Flow Forum with an opportunity to discuss the various technologies presented as well as any other burning issues concerning flow measurement. Summing up, host Oliver Grievson offered to set up a permanent flow forum if it was desired by the water industry as a whole.

The Instrumentation Apprentice Competition resumed in the afternoon, with the contestants set tasks by the three sponsors – ABB, Partech and Siemens. The apprentices were asked to: diagnose (pre-arranged) faults in an electro-magnetic flow meter; change the seal on a Turbitech turbidity monitor, and programme an ultra-sonic level meter over a V-notch which had been provided by Siris Environmental. The final task of the competition was the WRc hosted Question & Answer session, at which Andy Godley posed questions that tested both their technical and practical knowledge of instrumentation. The sponsors and supporting organisations then marked and assessed the performance of the teams and the winners were announced at the WWEM 2014 Gala Dinner. The Apprentice Competition was won by the Anglian Water team of Matthew Stephens and Harry Power with the team from Welsh Water, Will Williams and Alexander Smith, coming second. The remaining two teams from Thames Water (Darren Ewer and Kayne Chamber-Blucher) and Anglian Water (Harry Myers and Dominic Prime) shared third place.

Commenting after the event, winner Matthew Stephens explained that his apprenticeship with Anglian Water started with a year at college, followed by three years of block release. “I found the tasks very interesting,” he said. “As a result of my training I found the practical tasks relatively simple, although the technical questions were more challenging. We came to WWEM not really knowing what to expect but it was great to see so much of the industry in one place, and a walk around the exhibition was a good learning experience.”

A separate seminar was also run on PROFIBUS, a fieldbus communication technology, focusing on its application in the water, waste and environmental sectors, and Merck Millipore delivered a special session on the possible ban of the manufacture of COD tube/cell tests.

Smart Water Forum
This session began with a dissemination workshop from UKWIR. The study, which was completed by Jacobs, examined the trends in wastewater instrumentation, process automation & control and described the needs, trends and barriers that the UK water industry faces, including a resistance to the use of instrumentation. Oliver Grievson (Water Industry Process Automation & Control), who hosted the Forum, then gave a presentation on the future of instrumentation and its worth in AMP 6, giving examples of “Smart Solutions” that are available now.

Laurie Reynolds of Aquamatix described the Internet of Things and its place in the Water Industry, and how the way in which instrumentation data is currently captured and processed is set to change from a distributed network to a more dynamic way of working.

James Dunning from Syrinix then explained that in order for Smart Water innovations to be adopted by the industry, an improved financial approach needs to be taken. Providing a case study on pressure transients within the water distribution network, James explained that the cost of instrumentation is far outweighed by the losses that pressure transients can cause.

Tony Halker from Intellitect Water then described the involvement of miniature sensors and sonde technology in the Smart Water4Europe Project. Tony explained that the measurement and visibility of water quality in the potable water distribution network, between the treatment plant and the customer’s tap, is something the industry has sought for decades.

International Exhibition
The core WWEM exhibitors come back time after time, but as the importance of the event continues to grow, new companies from all over the world are drawn in with each show. This year, the exhibition was bigger than ever, featuring over 130 stands representing more than 250 of the world’s leading providers of test and monitoring equipment and related services.

WWEM2014As a specialist event, the aisles of the WWEM exhibition are populated by visitors with a professional interest in testing or monitoring in the water sector, so feedback from the exhibitors was unanimously positive. “Great venue, well organised, well attended, great leads, what more can I say?” said Jeremy Smith from Aquamatic. Nigel Grimsley from OTT Hydrometry agreed: “WWEM 2014 was very good for us – we received some excellent leads and held some very interesting discussions with key players in the water and weather monitoring sectors. Our flow monitoring products, the new HL4 water quality monitoring system and the Pluvio2 raingauge were particularly popular with visitors.”

Emphasising the importance of the event as an opportunity to meet the whole industry, Steve Tuck from PPM said: “WWEM is an ideal opportunity for knowledge transfer and networking amongst the water community.”

From a laboratory equipment supplier’s perspective, Natalie Barton from SEAL Analytical said: “We launched a new discrete analyser at WWEM so we were delighted to meet so many customers and prospects from commercial, utility and research labs.”

Xylem Analytics launched three major new products at the show. Expressing his delight, General Manager Darren Hanson said: “WWEM 2014 was a particularly important event for us, and with a focus on water testing and monitoring almost every WWEM visitor was interested in at least one of the new products. The new YSI ProDSS is the most advanced portable multiparameter instrument that we have ever developed and was the subject of a well-attended workshop, as was the new WTW UV-VIS sensor range. We also took advantage of the demonstration area to explain the advantages of the IQ SENSOR NET wastewater treatment plant monitoring system.”

Over 80 Workshops!
The Workshops ran almost continuously throughout the 2 days and covered an enormous variety of subjects within the overall testing and monitoring theme. These included flow monitoring presentations covering technologies such as laser, ultrasonics, clamp-on, magnetic flow and integrated flow and pressure metering. Water quality workshops covered the measurement of almost every parameter of interest including TOC, turbidity, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, trace metals, organic loading and toxicity. These presentations included handheld instruments as well as continuous and remote monitors, and also addressed data collection techniques and data management software.

Many of the process monitoring workshops examined common operational issues such as chemical precipitation in wastewater treatment, flood defence and asset monitoring, real-time sewer and CSO monitoring, and leakage monitoring and management.

Two of the eight workshop rooms were dedicated to gas detection and monitoring and these presentations covered technologies such as PID, NDIR, electrochemical and pyroelectric sensors. Workplace exposure, instrument calibration and the creation and certification of calibration standards were among the themes of these workshops.

Laboratory analysis was a common theme of many workshops. For example, a presentation by CitySprint examined the challenges faced by sample couriers and another looked at AQC charting software. Laboratory accreditation was also addressed in addition to specialist subjects such as the preparation of inorganic standards, complete ion analysis, TOC, COD, total cyanide and toxicity testing. There were presentations on automated pH and turbidity testing in addition to seminars on lab robotics. One of the speakers also provided a comparison between online and laboratory analysis of TOC, ammonia and BOD. With US EPA approval for the ChlordioX™ Plus, Palintest delivered a workshop entitled ’10 things you need to know about the monitoring of total residual oxidants’.

Instrumentation Demonstration Area
This year and for the first time, WWEM included a Supplier Instrumentation Demo area. WRc hosted this area which, over the 2 days, saw 25 companies provide demonstrations of their technology to those attending the exhibition. Everything from sample preparation technology through to toxic gas detection was demonstrated highlighting the breadth of technologies on show.

WWEM2014Leo Carswell, Head of Technology at WRc, comments: “WRc were delighted to be the first host the new ‘Demo Lab’ which has been a huge success and offered delegates the hands-on experience that is often lacking at exhibitions. The high quality of these demonstrations showed the passion and enthusiasm that suppliers have for their technologies.”

British Water & WWEM 2014 Innovation Exchange
Running throughout the first day of WWEM 2014, this event brought together Water Companies, their partners, and representatives from other water-using industries with British Water members and non-members to identify technology needs and explore available and potential solutions. The day included concurrent workshops on Water Monitoring, Wastewater Monitoring, and Environmental Monitoring, led by British Water, Black & Veatch, and J.Murphy & Sons respectively. The participants included Affinity Water, Bristol Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Thames Water and many of the industry’s key contractors.

Gala Dinner
Following a black-tie dinner, MCERTS instrument certificates were awarded to ABB, BioTector, Endress+Hauser, GE, HACH LANGE, Krohne, Mobrey, Nivus, Partech, PPM, Pulsar, Siemens, Sirco Controls, Teledyne ISCO and YSI. MCERTS inspector certificates were awarded to Aaron Hiden and Phil Rose from Critical Flow Systems, and to Simon Richardson from SIRIS Environmental Flow Surveys.

Reflecting on the success of WWEM 2014, organiser Marcus Pattison said: “In this internet age it can be difficult to prize people away from their desks and lab benches. However, it is important to remember that there are 3 ways in which people find new opportunities: active searching, opportunity creation and fortuitous discovery. People can actively search on the internet, but they only usually find what they are looking for, whereas visitors to WWEM events are creating opportunity; they are actively seeking and finding information that they need, and they are also creating opportunity for fortuitous discovery – finding something that they weren’t necessarily looking for!

“I hope that every visitor to WWEM found what they were looking for, networked with key industry professionals and returned home tired but content in the knowledge that they had invested their time wisely. I look forward to helping them to do so again at WWEM 2016 on 2nd and 3rd November.”


Ensuring that necessary dredging mantains water quality!

07/07/2014

Last winter brought unprecedented weather conditions both in Ireland and Britain. In the Read-out offices we were hit by a thunder and lightening storm which played havoc with our electronic equipment and elsewhere in the region the rough seas did incredible damage. In the south-west of England the farms and homes in the Somerset Levels and Moors, a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, was severely hit with incredible flooding. Indeed the effects of this will be felt in the area for many years to come.

levels

This shows the incredible extent of last winter’s flooding with superimposed map showing location of the Somerset Levels and Moors.

A special monitoring system is helping protect water quality on the Somerset Levels and Moors where a major dredging operation is under way following this severe flooding. The system, which was supplied by OTT Hydrometry and installed by Wavelength Environmental, is designed to protect the river ecology by issuing email alerts if water quality deteriorates beyond pre-set conditions. Any such alerts would immediately be relayed to the project team and an assessment of conditions would then be undertaken, so that working practices can be reviewed and continued.

The flood caused extensive damage to properties in the area and many residents had to leave their homes.  Approximately 170 homes and businesses were affected. The Environment Agency estimated there were more than 65 million cubic metres of floodwater covering an area of 65 square kilometres.

Dredgers commenced work at the end of March 2014

Dredgers commenced work at the end of March 2014

On Monday 31st March 2014, three months after the flooding began, dredging work started on the banks of the river Parrett between Burrowbridge and Moorland, just a few minutes from Junction 24 of the M5 in the south west of England. Costing £1 million per mile, 5 miles of river bank will be dredged (3 miles of the river Parrett and 2 miles of the river Tone), based on restoring the river channels to their 1960’s profile and improving their drainage capability.

In recent years, an accumulation of sediment has narrowed the river channel and this is believed to be just one of the reasons for the severe flooding that took place. A network of mobile real-time water quality monitors is therefore being deployed to continuously monitor water quality upstream and downstream of the dredgers. This work complements the Environment Agency’s wider environmental monitoring.

Adcon Telemetry plus Hydrolab WQ sonde.

Adcon Telemetry plus Hydrolab WQ sonde.

The monitors consist of Hydrolab water quality ‘sondes’ and Adcon telemetry systems which transmit near-live data during the dredging operation that is due to run until the Winter of 2014. The monitors are anchored to the river bed and suspended in the river by means of two small buoys. Each sonde is fitted with sensors for the measurement of dissolved oxygen (DO), ammonium, temperature, pH, conductivity and turbidity. A short cable connects each sonde to an Adcon telemetry unit on the bank, which transmits data via GPRS every 10 minutes. The sondes contain internal dataloggers, however the transmitted data is available to project staff in near real-time via a web-based data portal. If water quality meets the pre-set alert conditions (for temperature, dissolved oxygen or ammonium), email messages are issued via the telemetry units. It is important to note that poor water quality can be caused by a number of factors including low flow levels and high nutrient levels arising from many sources in the area.

Downstream monitoring!

Downstream monitoring!

The project plan has allowed for up to eight dredging teams, and the monitors are being installed approximately 50 metres upstream and 100-150 meters downstream of the dredgers – to allow sufficient mixing.

Simon Browning from Wavelength Environmental has been monitoring the data from the sondes and says: “The monitors are quick and easy to deploy, and have performed very well; however, portability is extremely important because the instruments have to be moved and redeployed as the dredging work proceeds.

“We have also started fitting GPS units to the telemetry systems so that we can keep track of the monitoring locations. This is important because each dredging team is constantly moving, so the monitors have to be moved regularly.”

Matthew Ellison, a telemetry specialist from OTT Hydrometry, was delighted to be involved in this high profile project and recommended the Adcon systems because they are extremely small and therefore portable, and have been designed to run on very low power, which means they can be left to run in remote locations for extended periods of time with just a small solar panel.

In January, Owen Paterson, the Environmental Secretary of State in England, asked for a 20 year Action Plan to be developed to look at the various options for the sustainable management of flood risk on the Somerset Levels and Moors. The plan is supported by a £10m investment from the Department for Transport with a further £500k from the Department for Communities and Local Government, on top of the £10m previously announced by the British Prime Minister. The plan has been published and is available here on the Somerset County Council website!

Whilst the plan recognises that it will not be possible to stop flooding completely, it has 6 key objectives:

  1. Reduce the frequency, depth and duration of flooding.
  2. Maintain access for communities and businesses.
  3. Increase resilience to flooding for families, agriculture, businesses, communities, and wildlife.
  4. Make the most of the special characteristics of the Somerset Levels and Moors (the internationally important biodiversity, environment and cultural heritage).
  5. Ensure strategic transport connectivity, both within Somerset and through the county to the South West peninsula.
  6. Promote business confidence and growth.

“Dredging is one of the one things the local community has really been pressing for and people are going to check the Environment Agency is doing the work properly. The water quality monitoring undertaken by the mobile monitors and by our own static monitors will help provide assurance that the environment is not compromised by this work,” said Graham Quarrier for the Environment Agency.


Keeping all Welsh air good!

25/06/2014
Air quality monitors track pollution hot-spots

Situated in the south west of Wales, in a largely rural area bordering the Brecon Beacons, Carmarthenshire’s air quality is predominantly good. However, there are areas of concern where major roads pass through some of the County’s larger towns, including Llanelli, Carmarthen and Llandeilo, where air quality is dominated by the effects of road traffic. The County Council is therefore testing new monitoring technologies so that it will be better able to track the effects of improvement measures.

The sensor!

The sensor!

Carmarthenshire County Council operates a network of passive diffusion tubes as part of its commitment to Local Air Quality Management under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. However, in 2013, Air Monitors supplied the Council with a new type of air quality monitor, ‘AQMesh’, that is able to provide continuous air quality readings for a range of important parameters. This new technology is small, wireless, lightweight and battery powered, which means that it can be quickly and simply mounted in almost any location.

The Council’s monitoring programme has identified Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from traffic emissions, mostly diesel vehicles, as the pollutant of greatest concern. A number of locations in the centre of Llandeilo have been shown to be in breach of European air quality standards, so an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been established in the town. Whilst NO2 levels are not sufficiently high to cause immediate health effects, the current levels could cause adverse health effects over the long term, particularly in people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

NO2 reduction by about 25µg/m3 is the main objective of the air quality action plan, but the Council is determined to ensure that all pollutants remain at safe levels, so the ability of the AQMesh to monitor a wide range of parameters (Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Temperature, Humidity and Atmospheric Pressure) is a major benefit.

Four features
Stephen Hoskin from Air Monitors says: “There are a number of important new features in AQMesh that are fundamentally changing the way that air quality is monitored; firstly, it can be located where air quality matters most – where people are breathing.

“Secondly, in comparison with large reference stations, with only a small drop in levels of accuracy, the cost of monitoring is reduced dramatically, which means that users will be able to measure air quality in more locations, and this will reduce the UK’s current dependence on modelling to ‘guesstimate’ air quality.

The unobtrusive sensor in situ!

The unobtrusive sensor in situ!

“Finally, by providing near real-time data over the internet, useful air quality data can be made available to a much wider audience via smartphones, tablets and computers.”

The AQMesh in Carmarthenshire is being operated by Oliver Matthews, one of the Council’s Environmental Health Practitioners with specific responsibility for air quality. He says: “In the past we have not continuously monitored this range of parameters because doing so would have involved the installation of a large, expensive air quality monitoring station that would have probably required planning permission.

“These reference stations offer high levels of accuracy, but come with large capital and operational costs, and cannot typically be moved, whereas the AQMesh can be quickly attached to a lamp post or other item of street furniture at a fraction of the cost.

“Alternatively, we could install passive diffusion tubes, one for each parameter of interest, but the disadvantage of this method is that the tubes are left in place for four to five weeks, so we are only provided with an average figure over that time, with no indication of the peaks and troughs that occur. For example, a recent road closure resulted in the diversion of traffic and, with the benefit of AQMesh, we were able to track a significant short-term rise in NO2.”

With the assistance of key stakeholders, the AQMA draft action plan has identified a number of options to improve air quality, and the AQMesh unit has been installed in order to help assess the success or failure of each initiative.

Interestingly, the development of the AQMA action plan benefitted from essential gas main works that were required in Llandeilo because this involved the closure of the main trunk road (Rhosmaen Street) for a period of up to three months, which provided an opportunity to identify the effects of traffic diversions on air quality.

Options that are being considered as part of the action plan include improving traffic management and seek to prevent vehicular ‘stop/start’ and promote a smooth flow of traffic. Typically, these options could include the provision of extra parking outside of the AQMA, the removal of some on-road parking within the AQMA, better parking enforcement, relocation of bus stops, reviewing pedestrian crossings and improvement of bottle necks.

Summarising Oliver says: “The network of diffusion tubes has enabled us to identify hotspots, and these are the locations at which the AQMesh will be of greatest use because we will be able to study trends and look for the causes of elevated pollution levels at specific times of the day.

“Data from the AQMesh are provided on a website via the ‘Cloud’ so, looking forward, this technology has the potential to make a major difference to air quality improvements and to the transparency and availability of data. For example, it may become possible to integrate air quality monitoring with automatic traffic management.”


Germany lowers biogas formaldehyde emissions

23/12/2013

Power generation from Germany’s enormous biogas industry produces emissions to air that are regulated by the Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control (TA Luft). As part of the approval process, the emissions from each plant have to be tested every three years. Formaldehyde is one of the pollutants of greatest concern because of its carcinogenicity and the TA Luft emission limit is 60 mg/m³. However, the German Government has also created a financial incentive scheme to encourage process managers to lower their formaldehyde emissions to below 40 mg/m³. To be eligible for the EEG (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz) scheme, plants must be tested every year.

VDI_TestSiteFormaldehyde (HCHO) can be difficult to measure in hot, wet emissions, not least because it would dissolve in condensate if the sample gas is allowed to cool. Test engineers in Germany have therefore deployed portable (DX 4000 and CX4000 from Gasmet) FTIR analyzers to measure formaldehyde, and a number of systems are currently in use across Germany.

Background
The biogas industry in Germany has grown enormously in recent years; in 1992 there were 139 biogas plants in the country, but by the end of 2013 there will be almost 8,000 with an electrical capacity of about 3,400 MW – sufficient for the energy needs of around 6.5 million households. Initially, biogas plants were built to handle the by-products of human and animal food production as well as agricultural waste, but with government incentives to generate renewable energy, farmers are now growing crops such as maize specifically for energy production.

Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion with anaerobic bacteria or fermentation of biodegradable materials. The main constituent gases are methane and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of hydrogen sulphide and water. The products of biogas combustion are mostly carbon dioxide and water, but the combustion of biogas also produces formaldehyde.

Biogas-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plants are becoming a very popular source of renewable energy in many countries because they provide a reliable, consistent source of energy in comparison with wind and solar power. In addition to the renewable energy that these plants produce; the fermentation residue is a valuable product that can be used as a fertiliser and soil conditioner for agricultural, horticultural and landscaping purposes.

Exhaust gas tests
The exhaust emissions of each biogas plant are tested every three years for substances hazardous to air quality, such as particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde. Most of these parameters can be measured on-site with portable equipment. However, in the early years and still to this day, the complexity of formaldehyde analysis has necessitated sampling and laboratory analysis – a time-consuming and costly activity.

FTIR_DX4000

FTIR_DX4000

In 2007 Wolfgang Schreier from the environmental analysis company RUK GmbH (now part of the SGS Group) started working on the use of portable FTIR gas analysers for formaldehyde analysis. The FTIR analysers are manufactured by Gasmet (Finland) and supplied in Germany by Ansyco GmbH, a Gasmet group company.

FTIR analysers are able to qualitatively and quantitatively analyse an almost endless number of gas species. However, Wolfgang Schreier says: “The Gasmet units are primarily employed for the measurement of formaldehyde, and whilst they are able to measure other parameters of interest such as CO, NOx and Methane, they are not yet certified for doing so in the emissions of biogas plants, unless an internal validation has been undertaken.

“The DX4000 proved to be the ideal instrument for this application because it samples at high temperatures (above 180 Deg C) so formaldehyde cannot dissolve in condensate, and the instrument provides sensitive, accurate, reliable real-time formaldehyde measurements – no other portable analyser is able to achieve this.

“Importantly, the DX4000 is also robust and weighing just 14kg, it is easy to transport from site to site. In addition to a heated sample line, the only other accessory is a laptop running Gasmet’s Calcmet™ software.”

In contrast with the portable FTIR, it is typical for the results of laboratory gas analysis to become available around 2 weeks after sampling. This highlights a further benefit of the direct-reading instrument; real-time results enable plant managers to adjust their process in order to improve efficiency and minimise the emissions of formaldehyde and other gases.

Ansyco’s Gerhard Zwick says: “We hope that the other measurements that are possible with the Gasmet FTIR will also soon be accepted. A new VDI method (VDI 3862-8) for the measurement of formaldehyde by FTIR is being established and this is likely to be published at the beginning of 2014.

“The preparation of this standard involved rigorous field tests with 5 Gasmet FTIR analysers at a live biogas plant. During testing, samples were taken for analysis according to the existing standard laboratory methods and the results showed that portable FTIR produced even better results than lab analysis.”

Formaldehyde reduction incentive
The bonus is paid to the operators of biogas plants which are subject to approval by the Federal Immission Control Act if certain conditions are met. Measurements to demonstrate the effectiveness of emission reduction have be taken each year by an organisation which is approved according to § 26 of the Act.

While the emission limit for formaldehyde is 60 mg/m3, according to the EEG legislative, the plant operator receives a bonus of 1 cent per kW when formaldehyde emission levels are below 40 mg/m3, with simultaneous fulfilment of the emission limits for nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide (combined), and for carbon monoxide.

With the benefit of real-time readings from the FTIR, process operators are able to employ process control measures to alter formaldehyde emissions. However, this may also affect the efficiency of the combustion process or the concentrations of other limited gases. In addition, it is now commonplace for modern plants to use a catalyst for formaldehyde emission reduction.

Summarising Gerhard Zwick says: “The standard formaldehyde emissions monitoring package consists of a Gasmet DX4000 analyser and a heated sampling system, so no adaptations were necessary for the measurement of biogas emissions.

“We have now supplied instruments to most of the key testing organisations as well as motor and system manufacturers in Germany. Happily, the feedback has been extremely positive because, as a portable analyser, the Gasmet FTIR systems are able to test more plants, more quickly, and this lowers costs.”


Instruments down the drain!

18/11/2013
CCTV hire supports excellence in drain services

With more than 40 regional drain cleaning service centres across Britain, Metro Rod provides a 24 hour service to anyone with blocked or damaged drains, pipes, toilets, sinks etc. To support this capability, the company and its franchisees maintain a fleet of the latest equipment such as tankers, high pressure jets, excavators, pipe liners and CCTV surveying equipment.

InpsectionFamilyTo ensure a fast and effective response to all customer requests during periods of peak demand, many of the franchisees take advantage of Ashtead Technology’s equipment rental fleet. For example, Ryan Davis is the owner and manager of the Metro Rod franchise for London East Central. With many years of experience managing Metro Rod in this area, Ryan has established a highly trained team of engineers supported by heavy investment in equipment such as a 3,000 gallon tanker and the latest CCTV drain inspection equipment. However, Ryan says: “Occasionally we need to undertake drain surveys in different locations at the same time, and we also receive enquiries that necessitate more specialised inspection cameras, so if our own equipment is unavailable, it is very useful to be able to hire the best instrument for the job.

“Ashtead Technology maintains a comprehensive fleet of the latest inspection tools including robotic camera crawlers and push-rod cameras and videoprobes, so we are able to quickly supplement our own equipment as and when we need to. This helps to ensure that our customers receive the best service possible.”

Metro Rod’s customers range from domestic customers with a blocked pipe or drain, to large water utilities that rely on a rapid response to any problems in the water and wastewater distribution network. In addition to emergency response, Metro Rod also provides routine preventative maintenance services to a wide range of organisations. For example, the south London franchisee provides ongoing service to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, including a major service in June, immediately prior to the Championships.

The ongoing operation of many industrial processes relies on the effective discharge of effluent, and any problem in this waste stream can limit or even halt production. Metro Rod’s national network of local teams means that the company is able to provide a fast and effective solution to blockages and related problems in pipes, drains and culverts.

“This ability to respond quickly to customer requests is a key feature of our business,” says Metro Rod’s Marketing Manager Ieuan Nicholls. “Our teams are highly trained and experienced, and they are equipped with the latest equipment to ensure prompt resolution of any problems.

“The facility to rent inspection equipment during periods of high demand means that we can ensure that we have the right kit on the ground for every job.”

Ashtead Technology’s Jay Neermul agrees: “It would not make financial sense for any company to purchase the volume of inspection equipment required to meet the highest level of need, because, by definition, a significant proportion of this equipment would lie unused, depreciating for much of the time.

“We have invested in our wastewater inspection fleet to meet increased demand, and have recently ordered more of the latest crawler units and pushrod cameras. We are therefore delighted to be able to partner with Metro Rod’s teams to ensure that they have exactly the right kit, wherever and whenever they need it.”


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