Do you ever tire of using sodium sulfate to dry your extracts? I know I do. That is why, whenever I get the chance to avoid using it, I do. The worst experience when using sodium sulfate is when you do not use enough of it, and the sodium sulfate reaches its maximum capacity leading to water breakthrough into your ‘what was supposed to be a dried extract.’ Then, you must dry the extract again with more sodium sulfate. When you are a high throughput lab, redoing steps is not ideal. Unfortunately, EPA Methods 525.2 and 525.3 require sodium sulfate drying as the drying technique, to name a couple, but not all EPA methods require sodium sulfate for drying. That is why when there is an alternative technique available and you are permitted to use it, why not use it?!
“Oh my! This is crystal clear!” – said nobody who has ever read through an EPA Method.
For anyone who processes samples in an EPA-regulated laboratory, you know that these methods can be very specific in some spots, and incredibly vague in others. The complexity worsens if you’re following one method for sample cleanup and another method for sample preparation and data collection. Consult this handy infographic to make sure you’re following the right methods for sample cleanup, processing and analysis.
“Water in my extracts again?!?!”
How many of you have been in that position? You’ve worked hard to extract your samples, you’ve dried your extracts to remove the last droplets of water from your organic solvent – only to add that water back in during your evaporation step! There are fewer frustrating situations than losing a set of extracts in this manner.
If you’re like me, you work hard, follow all the precautionary step-by-step procedures to carefully produce extracts in a timely fashion. It’s frustrating to think that a whole day’s work can be ruined with just a few milliliters of water. When you see the water, you make an attempt to remove it and save your extracts, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll work. Is there any way to avoid this?
“I love doing maintenance. It’s the best part of my week” – said nobody ever.
Let’s be honest. We all dread performing maintenance. Why?
- It’s boring. I’m a chemist and I’d rather spend my time using my instrument than maintaining it.
- It seems unnecessary. I’m a fan of what I call “sensory maintenance” – that water looks pretty clean, that pump sounds pretty good.
- I don’t always know what I should be doing for preventative maintenance.
On the surface, EPA Method 8270 seems pretty straightforward. The first version of this method was published over a decade ago and many environmental labs are processing samples according to the guidelines in this method. The EPA summarizes the goals of the method in a single sentence on their website:
“This method [is] for analysis of solid, non-drinking water, drinking water and/or wipe samples containing select semi-volatile organic compounds.”
The U.S. EPA monitors a variety of compounds that pose public health risks when they are present in our air, soil or water and they have spent decades publishing methods to help us extract and quantify those compounds. The 8000 Series EPA Methods describe the extraction and analysis of contaminants in groundwater and Method 8270 specifically covers semi-volatile compounds. The EPA has been monitoring semi-volatile compounds in solid waste, soils and groundwater for almost 40 years, and Method 8270 has undergone several revisions during that time. For example, revision C allowed air samples to be included in the list of sample matrices that can be analyzed under this method.
Have you ever wondered why solution flow rates are so important when performing sample preparation with solid phase extraction (SPE)? If you have, read on – I have the answer for you!
Throughout my college career, the phrase “like dissolves like” was referred to quite frequently. This phrase was particularly relevant when we did solubility experiments and for good reason – it’s 100% true! Solvents tend to dissolve solutes with physical and chemical properties that are similar to theirs. Other factors such as temperature, pressure and pH can affect the solubility of solutes as well, but let’s just keep it simple for the purposes of this discussion and keep it focused on physical and chemical properties. Given this simplistic definition of solubility, the opposite stands true as well – solutes don’t tend to dissolve into solvents with differing physical and chemical properties. These solvents and solutes want to stay as far from each other as is possible.