Wastewater Operations Laboratory


The City of Houston Wastewater Operations Laboratory is a state-accredited laboratory providing a specific suite of methodologies for regulatory compliance services. Our diverse group of employees strive, 365 days a year, to provide high quality, legally defensible data to ensure stakeholders have the information needed to make decisions that continue to preserve the cleanliness and sustainability of the city’s water systems. The three pillars on which this aim rests are Ethics, Quality and Safety.   The Laboratory operates 7 days a week and 365 days a year, performing both collection tasks and daily analysis. This dedication results in:   125,000 samples collected a year (approx. 10,000 a month)   Including the Industrial Monitoring and a robust Quality Assurance Program this results in close to 200,000 analyses per year!     


The Wastewater Operations Laboratory is committed to maintaining the highest professional standards in our laboratory operations. We operate under the ethics policy established by NELAP. As such, we seek and employ the best analytical practices to ensure data integrity. The Wastewater Operations Laboratory supports the Good Laboratory Practices guidelines of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the TCEQ.   

Our ethical practices are a testament to the quality of the highly skilled Biologists, Chemists, Engineers and Microbiologists who specialize in the analytical chemistry present in their daily workflow. These employees combine for decades of analytical experience.   This diverse group holds themselves to the highest of standards including the Metals, Mercury, Ammonia, BOD and TSS analysis groups achieving and maintaining NELAP certification. The laboratory management ensures that personnel are free from any commercial, financial, and other undue pressures, which might adversely affect the quality of work.   


Our policy is to use good professional practices, to maintain quality, to uphold the highest quality of service, and to comply with the TNI Standard. 

The laboratory maintains a dedicated Quality Control program that adheres to EPA, State Specific, ASTM, OSHA and NIOSH Methodologies. The Wastewater Operations Laboratory Quality Assurance Program consists of integrated management systems to provide the following:  

  • Compliance with established federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations   
  • High quality, legally defensible data 
  • Prompt, accurate and precise laboratory results 
  • Utilization of appropriate and approved methods 
  • Easy to understand reports and electronic deliverables    
  • Technical support expertise in a wide variety of fields   

The Quality Department oversees the foundation of a testing program by utilizing routine checks to determine if laboratory operations are within acceptable guidelines during data generation. These quality control tools include calibrations, blanks, duplicates, spiking, internal standards, surrogates, studies, and certified standards. To evaluate the quality of test results, the laboratory utilizes certified reference materials, control charting, proficiency testing studies, multiple replicates, and confirmation analyses comparison to historical data.  


Working and sampling with a multitude of chemicals, apparatus and instrumentation daily presents a challenging workspace. The management and employees of the Wastewater Operations Laboratory are dedicated to the daily pursuit of every employee returning home unharmed, every night.   The Wastewater Operations Laboratory is outfitted with a full array of Engineering Controls, Management Controls, Emergency Equipment and Safety Program to continue in the goal of zero preventable incidents. All employees utilize appropriate Personal Protection Equipment and adhere to safety standards as set by OSHA and NIOSH.   


With these tenets in place, the Wastewater Operation Laboratory can execute its supporting role within Houston Water in the continued pursuit to ensure compliance for the City’s 39 Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) and 2 Wet Weather Facilities (WWF). 

The laboratory consists of the following departments:

  • Sampling Group
    • Utility Workers collect influent and effluent wastewater samples from the City WWTPs for regulatory purposes and permit compliance  
    • Mechanical Workers keep Sampling apparatus operational  
  • Metals Group
    • Use analytical instruments such as the ICP, ICP-MS, and Mercury Cold Vapor to detect metals at low levels  
    • Metals testing on industrial waste samples, sludge cakes samples, effluent and influent samples  
  • Fertilizer/Special Samples/Chemical Group  
    • Analyzes Class A and Class B sludge  
    • Measure Fecal coliform, EColi, Enterococcus bacteria  
    • Tests industrial waste for Total & Available Cyanide and Sulfide  
  • Routine Chemistry Group 
    • Daily analysis for permit requirements for Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Carbonaceous Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Total Suspended Solids, and Ammonia  
    • Utilize inline spectrophotometers, balances, auto-titrators and samplers  
  • Organics Group  
    • Analyze industrial waste and WWTP effluent permitted samples for Base, Neutrals, and Acids (BNAs), herbicides, pesticides, and volatiles.  
  • Quality Assurance/Quality Control Group 
    • Ensures the adherence to the high standards set by TNI and management  
    • Monitors and maintains laboratory’s accredited methods certification.