A Program Of The

City Of Columbia

Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant Laboratory Update

by Sarah Hickman – Laboratory Manager, Metro WWTP

CW2020 Employee Newsletter Vol. 5, No. 2

The Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant (Plant) laboratory has been running smoothly since regaining its certification in December 2015 from South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The laboratory analyzes samples for total suspended solids, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, total residual chlorine, and fecal coliform which are then reported to DHEC on the Plant’s monthly Discharge Monitoring Report. The laboratory is also certified to test for E. coli and has started processing samples to ensure that the Plant will meet the limits for its upcoming renewal of the NPDES permit expected in late 2017 or early 2018.

In addition to regulatory samples, laboratory staff also analyze process control samples to help Plant staff operate more efficiently. We have recently started processing bleach analysis tests. The Plant uses sodium hypochlorite (bleach) for disinfection. The testing helps confirm the strength of the bleach to verify that suppliers are providing the product that they promise and to ensure adequate disinfection.

Another way laboratory staff improves efficiency is by upgrading software and programs. We have started to customize Hach WIMS, the Plant's data collection, analyzing, and monitoring tool. Together with Metro WWTP Superintendent, David Wiman, the team is creating new shift change dashboards and have made the program more user-friendly by simplifying search criteria, adding additional parameters to track, and setting programming data limits.

Plant Laboratory Staff participates in events and activities outside of the Plant to engage with the community and gain additional skills. In 2017, the Plant established an Operations Challenge Team to compete against other South Carolina teams at the 27th Annual South Carolina Environmental Conference held in March at the Myrtle Beach Conference Center. Operations Challenge gives participants an opportunity to learn from different areas in wastewater including process control, laboratory, safety, and maintenance and collections. Team member Melissa Engle recalls, “I learned a lot and love representing the City of Columbia.” As team coach and Plant Laboratory Manager, Sarah Hickman, I also serve as Chair of the Water Environment Association of South Carolina Laboratory Committee. The committee recently hosted a workshop providing relevant industry information to over 250 professionals.

In addition, several interns from the University of South Carolina and Benedict CollegePlant Lab - Microsc HD camerahave trained in the laboratory and tours of the Plant bring visitors by regularly. Staff always prepares fresh slides for visitors to see the microorganisms that are currently active in the aeration basins.

We hope to continue participating in these educational and extracurricular events to attract top talent, change perception, and help Metro to become a leader in the wastewater field.