Though their work is largely done in the background, WesTech’s highly-experienced lab experts provide significant input to engineers at WesTech. Their testing contributes to a variety of important decisions, from right-sizing equipment in a proposal to troubleshooting an existing customer’s problem.
The knowledgeable team members combine decades of practical know-how in water and wastewater testing, providing valuable insight to treatment issues.
Important Piece of the Puzzle
Ensuring the right processes, design parameters, and equipment size are essential to an optimally performing and cost-efficient wastewater treatment facility. This is particularly critical in industrial applications where variations in the quality of influent require more specialized treatments as compared to municipal processes.
To meet these needs, WesTech provides 110 different products, encompassing a focus on filtration, sedimentation and flotation systems that are particularly utilized in industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities to treat high-strength wastewater.
All of these products are supported by the company’s extensive in-house laboratory testing capability and staff expertise. The WesTech lab is quite unique in the breadth of services that it can perform, providing a wide gamut of testing options during system development, and for troubleshooting and process optimization with installed systems.
“The lab has been in existence for 45 years, starting with the beginning of the company,” said Mike Chambers, WesTech Application Engineer and laboratory head.
“It is staffed by a number of process and application engineers, and used exclusively for our clients’ projects. The lab is essentially WesTech’s behind-the-scenes engineering team that does the groundwork research needed to determine treatment options, equipment sizing, and validate process requirements for each of our clients. As the company has grown, the lab has continued to expand to keep up with this growth.”
Two Key Areas of Testing: Sedimentation and Vacuum Filtration
“Because of our strong industrial client base, the main tests that the lab performs relate to sedimentation and vacuum filtration,” added Chambers. “These tests encompass specifying and sizing clarifiers, thickeners, horizontal belt filters, drum filters, and other equipment used in similar applications for separating solids and liquids.”
In sizing a clarifier or thickener, the important factors are generally the solids settling rate, which corresponds to an effluent rise rate, and the area required to thicken the solids. The design values that represent these factors are the design rise rate which uses the flow rate of the effluent to determine the unit size, and the design unit area which uses the solids loading to determine unit size. The detention time required to obtain a particular effluent clarity is also important. Sedimentation testing at the WesTech lab is typically conducted with a 2,000 mL graduated cylinder fitted with a slow turning rake mechanism to simulate rake action found in full-scale units.
Brandt Anderson, Lab Process Engineer, is a relatively new team member who is keen about sedimentation testing. “I really like going through an entire realm of sedimentation testing, figuring out the correct polymer/coagulant, finding the optimal dilution of the sample, finding the rise rate and unit area, and finally sizing the thickener/clarifier,” said Anderson. “When I go through the sedimentation process, I can figure out what really works. Each sample behaves differently with different chemicals and it’s up to me to find out what works best. I get to know the sample as best I can, figure out a process that works, then make the recommendations based on my testing.”
These recommendations benefit customers who are looking for guidance from WesTech on equipment suggestions.
For example, WesTech employees from the Ames, Iowa, office were working with a hog farm in the Midwest to reduce iron and manganese from surface and well water that the hogs needed to drink. Chambers went to the farm and conducted jar testing on their water to see what would work best to oxidize the iron and manganese.
Later, Richard Cutler, WesTech Applications Engineer and laboratory services group member, went to the farm and helped run a pilot plant which included air for oxidation, mix tanks and the plate settler. Test results showed that the pilot was effective, and the customer decided to purchase full-scale equipment.
Other small-scale testing includes bench-scale vacuum filtration studies performed by the lab to determine the distribution of particle size in wastewater, and establish the optimum filtration system to separate the solid-liquid mixtures.
“We have different procedures that we follow for testing,” said David Rogers, WesTech Applications Engineer. “For example, with vacuum filtration we measure how long it takes to pull the water out to where there is no water left standing. Then, we try varying the times to see how long it takes to pull out any remaining water. We can take the results from these tests and determine the size of the equipment required and the best type of system needed, such as a horizontal belt filter or drum filter.”
In addition to the industrial market, WesTech lab’s in-house capabilities address a wide range of municipal water and wastewater applications. These applications are typically concerned with reduction of Total Suspended Solids (TSS), color, pH, and turbidity.
The lab can also target nutrient removal, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, or organic compound removal such Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and Total Organic Carbon (TOC). This type of testing is typically done using standard jar testing procedures using coagulants and flocculating polymers.
Testing to Make a Clear Decision
Most of the time, the type of wastewater treatment systems to be used is already determined before testing. Occasionally, the lab will need to evaluate a couple of competing systems to determine which will work best, such as type of clarifier, for example – whether a Solids CONTACT CLARIFIER™ or a ballast clarifier, or high-density sludge system will work best.
“But frequently, companies come to us with wastewater problems that they need help in solving,” said Cutler. “We start by clearly determining what the exact issues are that need to be resolved. It could be that the equipment is not operating properly, or is incorrectly sized for the wastewater treatment requirements. It could be that the equipment is not being operated or maintained properly. Or it could be that there is a change in feedstock.”
“Or a customer will request that we test a specific flocculant or coagulant to see how they perform,” added Cutler. “Sometimes we are able to identify another one that performs better. In this way the lab is able to bring a high level of value to WesTech clients.”
Once the lab completes its testing, a comprehensive report is prepared for the company, and the water treatment options are discussed with WesTech sales or production groups.
“Our clients like to know they are dealing with a company that has its own full-service lab,” said Jake Blattman, WesTech Industrial Sales Manager. “Our lab services are a very critical part of the overall WesTech offering to our clients, a capability that sets us distinctly apart.”
Photo 1: WesTech’s lab experts (L to R): Brandt Anderson, Spencer Elton, Richard Cutler, Mike Chambers, David Rogers, Kayla Mumford
Photo 2: Brandt Anderson conducting a sedimentation test on a water sample
Photo 3: Mike Chambers doing a vacuum filtration procedure
Photo 4: Kayla Mumford conducting jar testing on a wastewater sample