About Region 8’s Central Regional Laboratory
What We Do
The Region 8 laboratory plays a critical role in protecting people's health and the environment through the analysis of air, water, soil, and biota samples (plant, fish, and occasionally, mammalian tissue). EPA analysts use state of the art instruments and techniques and apply rigorous quality assurance methods to ensure quality data.
The laboratory analysts are pleased to offer technical guidance and project assistance. The Laboratory Services Program meets the varied needs of many internal as well as external customers, including Region 8 Programs, EPA's Office of Research and Development, federal agency partners, tribal, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations.
The lab offers:
- Inorganic Chemical Analysis
- Organic Chemical Analysis
- Metals Chemical Analysis
- Microbial Analysis
- On-site field evaluation and sample collection
- Water and soil toxicological evaluation
- Training for laboratory analyses and field collection
- Technical guidance
The Region 8 Laboratory Facility is located in the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado, approximately ten miles west of the Region 8 office building in downtown Denver. The Facility's mobile laboratory is maintained and available for emergency response and remote field sampling, testing, and analyses.
Mark Burkhardt, Director
What We Do: The inorganic chemistry section at the Region 8 Lab can perform a myriad of chemical tests. When people think of an analytical chemist's job, they most commonly associate the duties performed in the inorganic chemistry lab. We monitor many important water quality parameters. Ammonia, nitrate and phosphorous loading of streams and lakes can lead to eutrophication (the depletion of oxygen in waters due to nutrient loading). High biological oxygen demand (BOD) depletes the oxygen supply to the point where fish cannot live. pH changes can determine the bioavailability of toxic metals. Carbon content of a body of water can effect the toxicity of metals present.
The quantity of substances we test for is not always the most important information. Sometimes the source of a pollutant can be identified by changes in pollution concentration between different sampling locations. For example, high nutrient loading in a stream downstream from a sewage treatment plant may actually be due to fertilizer runoff from agricultural concerns upstream.
What We Do: Region 8 has a virtual state of the art facility for the extraction and analysis of many organic compounds. The main focus of the organic section is in the area of drinking water (CWA and SDWA), but is by no means limited to just those two federal programs. The laboratory is equipped to support all the programs within the Region (RCRA, CERCLA, Pesticides, NPDES, state, tribal, and local facilities). The new laboratory facility in Golden houses an extensive area for the preparation and analysis of organic compounds in many matrices (water, soil, plant and animal tissue, etc.) There are three laboratories dedicated to sample preparation and seven separate laboratories for gas chromatographic (GC) and high performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) instrumentation.
What We Do: The six states of Region 8 (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY) have many active and abandoned hard rock mines, smelters and tailings piles. Because of the potential for metals leaching into snowmelt and rainwater thereby impacting groundwater and surface streams and lakes, a large proportion of the Laboratory's work involves testing for metals in soils, sediments, biota or tailings.
Nutritionally, metallic elements are crucial in many metabolic processes. Yet, too much of certain metals in food, water, air or soil can be detrimental to the organism. Thus EPA and other organizations and agencies have set concentration limits for these commonly occurring elements in drinking water, ambient streams, waste water, hazardous wastes disposal, and growing soils.
Normally to test these various matrices for toxic metals, a preparation step (e.g. digestion) is required to release the metals from their bonded state to available ions in solution. Reduction or containment of metals releases, is the ultimate goal of monitoring metals by the Regional Laboratory's metals section. Broad-based watershed studies provide assessment of the current status for large areas; site specific analysis can reveal the potential contamination and risk from a superfund site, hazardous waste spill or permit discharge.
What We Do: Current Region 8 microbiology capabilities include routine microbial analysis of heterotrophs, total coliforms, fecal coliforms, E. coli, and enterococci in drinking water, wastewater, surface water, and groundwater. Methods used during routine testing include the EPA approved heterotrophic plate count methods, membrane filter method, multiple tube fermentation method, and the chromogenic/fluorogenic substrate methods.
Region 8 also performs laboratory studies to enumerate and identify microbes associated with mining activities and wastes including iron and sulfur oxidizers, sulfate reducers, iron reducers, arsenic reducers, as well as others. Region 8 routinely performs studies involving the culturing and handling of strict anaerobes. Methods for enrichment and culturing of organisms are developed at the Region 8 Laboratory.
The Region 8 staff has experience in conducting bioremediation studies on contaminants including recalcitrant chlorinated aliphatic solvents, PCBs, oils/petroleum products, and metals associated with mining wastes. The experimental design and methods developed are based on project needs.
In the near future, Region 8 will have the capability of performing rapid tests to detect and identify pathogens in various environmental media. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) capabilities for detection of E. coli and other microbial indicators of human fecal contamination or disease will be available for routine use.