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Hello Again! We've just missed getting this newsletter out during National Water Week, but that couldn't be helped. The trainers and I have hardly seen the inside of our offices lately. We've been tramping around the country (and outside it!) doing what we love to do. Still, I want to take the time to share our latest news and tips with you. And speaking of tips, here's one for you: When you train at a site with crocs lurking about, you'd better pay mighty close attention to your safety training, especially when the sneaky bug...er....when the sneaky things lay low until the last day when you're demonstrating how to sample! Never say I'm not dedicated to my work!


This month you'll find our usual hodge podge of advice, humour and, dare I say, it, even a few opportunities to learn. We continue to be pretty excited about the new training package, so if you or your blokes (or your ladies) are due for some up-skilling, give us a call and talk to Xin or myself. We'll get you set up.

One last thing - click on over to our website. It's full of articles, tools and videos that you might find a wee bit helpful. Just click here.

- Liz Millan (Chief Trainer)
 
Last month we celebrated National Water Week from . The theme this year was "water-life-growth" and I figured I'd take the opportunity to share a few "lessons from Liz" on the topic. 

Lesson #1 is a wee bit sappy, but I think it's really, really important. Sometimes when you are trying to master the ins and outs of your job as an operator, we worry that you don't appreciate the important work that you're going to be doing. Water and wastewater treatment are essential services that help communities get good clean water. Without it, communities can't grow. And without you, the plant doesn't do what it needs to do. So never forget that when you're sampling, monitoring, maintaining or otherwise caring for your plant, you're also doing your bit for the people who live in your community. If that isn't "water-life-growth" I don't know what is.

Lesson #2 is perfect for me, because I'm still the Bug Lady! Anyone who has stood beside me and looked in the microscope knows that's another way to see water, life and growth! We do like to keep our bugs happy and healthy, don't we?

If you missed it, and want to learn more about the Australian Water Association and National Water Week, they have a website here. And if you're got kiddies at home who like colouring in, you can download two colouring sheets courtesy of the AWA here and here.


 

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New Web Training Videos: Liz Explains It All!
 
Liz is our (and her native New Zeland's Bug Lady), our Chief Trainer and our resident expert on any number of interesting topics. In these new web help videos, Liz walks us first through the difference between anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic, then, in the second video, she explains different types of oxidation ponds and layers.

 

 

Check out Liz's video on anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic.

 

Visit Liz's video on oxidation ponds and layers.

 

Revisit our Operator Maths Web Tutorials.

 

Review our Step By Step Testing Web Tutorials.


 
Key Article Flashback: Responding to Show Cause Notices

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The request to 'show cause' by the local state environmental regulator is the request that no business hopes to receive. Want to know more about why this happens and what you can do about it?

We have a helpful article on our website. Read it here.


Tips From Travis: Assessing the Accuracy of Lab Results

Many water industry operators undertake their sampling, send off their samples to the lab, and trust that the results that they get back are accurate. However, there are times that the results that the lab provides are not an accurate depiction of the quality of the sampled water or wastewater product.
 
Developing skills in the interpretation of lab results will enable you to more easily determine if  you have actually exceeded one of the thresholds in your sampling regime, or if your lab results are likely to blame, which could save you a large amount of time and money so you don't have to unnecessarily investigate and rectify a fault that never occurred.

There are a variety of ways to accomplish this:

  • Compare your current results to those previously collected to detemine if there are any trends or variations. If laboratory results are substantially different compared to historical trends, then it is a good opportunity for water industry operators to explore if this variation is due to a change in the sampled water, or is due to a laboratory result. 
  • Compare them to some form of typical or background concentration. Depending on the source of the sample, guidance for typical concentrations for a number of test parameters can be found for drinking water (e.g. Australian Drinking Water Guidelines or ADWG), wastewater treatment systems (e.g. the Australian Recycled Water Guidelines or ARWG), or for general water quality of waterways (e.g. ANZECC Water Quality Guidelines).
  • Compare the total versus the dissolved fraction (the total should be greater, if not, an error may have occurred). If using this method, don't forget to take pH into consideration!
  • Consider the concentration of compounds compared to the concentration of elements.
  • When checking the accuracy of laboratory organic results, ensure that the total petroleum hydrocarbon concentration (TPH) is less than the total recoverable hyddrocabon (TRH) results.
  • Another issue commonly encountered in incorrect laboratory results is the nitrogen compounds not balancing with the total nitrogen concentration. Any occasion where the nitrogen results do not balance (apart from small differences associated with method accuracy) should result in the laboratory results being checked to assess the cause of the error.
  • Undertake Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) sampling by using quality control samples such as the use of reference sites for comparison, control samples, field spikes or field, transport and container blanks.
  • The accuracy of the laboratory analysis can also be readily checked by looking at the anion-cation balance. Since water is neutrally charged, the sum of anions should roughly equal the sum of cations. The anion-cation balance is normally expressed as percentage. If the anion-cation balance is >5%, this may indicate an error in analysis, and the results should not be relied on for subsequent interpretation until they are investigated.

 

Ultimately, these methods remind us that laboratories and laboratory results are not infallible. If your results indicate you have exceeded a sampling threshold, taking the time to check the accuracy of those results can be incredibly helpful.


Advice From Bill: Getting the Message Out To Staff About Environmental Responsibilities

In my role as a training officer delivering water industry training to staff from different councils and water utilities across Queensland, I often come across staff in operational areas who have little or no knowledge or awareness of their duties or responsibilities when it comes to environmental protection. This is especially the case in regional and remote areas. In most cases their organisations do have environmental plans and procedures in place, but these staff were not aware that they existed. In some cases there was an awareness that there might be procedures, but the employee did not know how or where to access them.

Water industry activities, if not properly managed, can cause harmful effects or impacts on the environment. These impacts can include:
  • Water pollution due to discharge of treated sewage effluent
  • Solid waste disposal (screenings & grit as well as general waste disposal)
  • Sediment and erosion due to construction and network repair activities
  • Sewage spills and overflows to land or waterways
  • Air pollution due to  sewage odour
  • Biosolids (sludge) disposal
  • Chemical spills/handling
And this is just a brief list of possible adverse impacts.

Polluting the environment and causing environmental harm (or nuisance) is illegal in all states of Australia .In Queensland, the most important piece of environmental legislation which governs these matters is the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and accompanying Regulations and Environmental Protection Policies.
 
All councils, water utilities and individuals in Queensland have a legal duty under the Act to comply with their environmental protection obligations. But how do you make sure that your staff is informed about their responsibilities and obligations?
 
Some options include:  
  • Individually (face to face)
  • Personal visits to depots or treatment plants by managers (walk arounds)
  • Formal training courses (internal and external)
  • Developing information posters and posting them around the workplace
  • Formal and informal meetings (tool box, pre-start, monthly team meetings)
  • Posting information on staff notice boards
  • Staff newsletters and flyers
  • Information notice enclosed with pay slips
  • Mail-outs to staff
  • Questionnaires
  • Surveys
  • Pocket Cards

And if staff have access to computers and/or mobile phones:

 

  • Internet
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Text messages
  • Using your organisational intranet system
  • Using proprietary information packages (e.g. Take 5)

 

There is really no one 'best' way to do this. The most effective approach may be to do a quick assessment of your workforce and decide on which method or combination of methods to adopt. This could best be done by supervisors or team leaders assessing their work groups and trying different methods to ensure that they can reach all of their staff members. Questionnaires or staff surveys could be used to gauge the effectiveness of different methods.

 

From my past experience as a supervisor, with a diverse workforce which was geographically spread across a fairly large region, I found that a combination of face to face visits to depots and treatment plants, and ensuring I attended regular meetings with the various work teams seemed to work best. I had the luxury at the time of having access to the organisation's environmental team. The environmental officers where anyways happy to accompany me on site visits to the plants, and would deliver a short talk at meetings, bringing staff up to date with the latest changes to environmental legislation, or a general talk on environmental awareness or licence compliance. Formal training was very useful too, as were staff newsletters and information posted on staff notice boards. 


We Want a Few Good Trainers (And Operators Too!)


Simmonds & Bristow is on the hunt to see if we can find potential trainers and operators to join our team. To learn more about the opportunity to become an S&B Trainer, click here. If you're interested in becoming an operator for S&B Field Services, click here.


Do you want to keep up with the latest news and information from Simmonds & Bristow? Do you want to know when new positions are available? If so, click here to follow us on Linked In to keep up with the latest news and events!
Bug of the Month:
Suctoria - Hidden Assassin!

Suctorians are one of my favourite types of protozoans that might be found in activated sludge samples.

They are generally associated with biomass populations having lots of free swimming ciliate protozoa present. They lurk in wait until some unsuspecting free swimmer brushes against the end of their protruding tentacles (spikes). These spikes are hollow, the swimmer gets stuck to the end and the suctoria shoots little pellets of bug "curare" (poison) down the tube into the swimmer. This not only paralyses the swimmer but turns its insides into gel, which the suctoria then sucks up its tentacle like using a straw. The empty husk (cell wall) of the victim is then released.



Suctorians Tokophyra (on top) and Podophyra (on the bottom) both at 400X magnification. See the algae (Scenedesmus species) in the photos. The plant was returning supernatant from a lagoon the time.


Simmonds & Bristow is also on Facebook! You'll find stories, pictures and links on our Facebook page. Click here to visit our Facebook page!
Where In The World Have We Been?

We've been North to the Torres Strait, South to Tasmania, west to Leonora in WA and up and all over the East Coast. Don't forget to say "hi" if you see us on the road!
 

And In Other News....

Elena Moeller is our Engineering and Scientific Services Manager. Elena's dedicated team handles everything from environmental assessment, to working with your local state environmental agency to treatment plant design and commissioning.


Read a Q&A with Elena here and find out what makes her team tick!

Simmonds & Bristow|  training@simmondsbristow.com.au | 1800 620 690 | simmondsbristow.com.au