Real-Time Analysis of Metals in Aqueous Waste Streams

EPA Contract Number: 68D02022
Title: Real-Time Analysis of Metals in Aqueous Waste Streams
Investigators: Thomas, Rhys N.
Small Business: Fayette Environmental Services Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: April 1, 2002 through September 1, 2002
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , SBIR - Monitoring , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Metals in aqueous effluents are of regulatory interest due to their varied potential environmental and health effects. Monitoring such effluents typically requires sampling, digestion, and analysis by atomic absorption or inductively coupled plasma. The proposed innovation, a new form of spectrometry, will be able to quantify the metals in aqueous effluents to 100 ppb in real time. Some industries accumulate aqueous wastes until analysis has been completed; others discharge the wastes and hope that the analysis will be favorable. The first method incurs significant storage costs, the latter incurs significant liability. The proposed instrument, cost-comparable to existing analytical techniques, obviates the need for accumulation and removes most of the potential liability. A real-time monitoring system can prevent many inadvertent discharges of toxic metals if the monitoring system controls the outlet valve.

The proposed analytical method, pioneered 50 years ago, could not be applied to real-time analysis until fast and inexpensive computers with large memories and storage devices became available. The computational requirements for resolving complex spectra are significant, but well within the range of personal computers and existing mathematical packages. Because the technique is new, the proposed system requires that thousands of new constants be generated. The immediate objective of this research is to measure the necessary constants and demonstrate that the mathematical theory can be applied to a real problem. Phase I will result in an instrument that lacks only the user interface software, which will be developed by Fayette Environmental Sciences, Inc., in Phase II for the prototype instrument. Phase II will include a demonstration of the prototype in parallel with an existing analytical system.

Being cost comparable to existing analytical methods, the instrument will be attractive to industries that generate metal-laden wastewater. In addition to meeting the analytical burden cost effectively, the instrument will reduce liability by documenting all discharges in small increments of time. The instrument also will find application in monitoring process baths for trace metals contamination. The same instrument may be modified to analyze metals in gaseous effluent with detection limits below current regulatory levels.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, monitoring, spectrometry, metals, aqueous waste stream, wastewater, real-time analysis., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Wastewater, Monitoring/Modeling, Analytical Chemistry, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Biology, Environmental Engineering, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, monitoring, wastewater treatment, spectrometry, real time analysis, contaminant transport, contaminants, field portable systems, field portable monitoring, municipal sewers, field monitoring, detection system, municipal wastewater, stormwater, water quality, field detection, water contaminants, aqueous waste stream, real-time monitoring, aqueous waste streams

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report