In the Metals Prep and Analysis lab, scientists analyze surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soil, sediment and sludge for more than two dozen potentially toxic elements. While some metals are essential nutrients and are important trace elements necessary for a healthy ecosystems (e.g., calcium, magnesium, and zinc), they may be harmful at high concentrations; other metals (e.g., arsenic, lead, and mercury) are toxic even at low concentrations. Results from this lab are compared to regulatory limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the City of Tacoma. By measuring these metals, contaminant sources can be identified, monitored and assessed to ensure the environment is protected from adverse impact.
In this lab:
- Samples are subjected to strong acids, heat and pressure in order to dissolve any metals that are present. Dissolved metals samples are analyzed using specialized instrumentation to identify and quantify metals that may be present in the samples.
- Concentrations of metals in soil and water are evaluated against project objectives and regulatory limits.
- Identifying specific metals in samples can help trace the origin of pollutants and provide key insight about the health and condition of the environment.