Government regulator uses KaleidaGraph to monitor water quality in Washington

I often use KaleidaGraph to pursue the data using various mathematical functions, statistics, and graph styles to see if I can see trends that otherwise might go unobserved.

Mike’s Growers is a grower-owned cooperative operating a fruit cannery in Washington. The cannery processes apples, cherries, pears, and plums and preserves them in cans. Up to 180 tons of cherries, 650 tons of pears, 270 tons of plums, and 375 tons of apples are processed daily.

Raw fruit is peeled or otherwise prepared, cut, sorted, and packed in cans with syrup, then sealed and sterilized. Fruit is processed and canned as the various fruits ripen in the Yakima Valley. Applesauce and other apple products are canned throughout the year using apples stored in a controlled environment.

The wastewater from cut and peeled fruit, equipment wash water, and floor cleanup requires treatment at the Mike’s owned and operated treatment plant. Chlorinated can cooling water is combined with treatment plant effluent and discharged into a nearby river.

NPDES permits and fact sheets

The federal Clean Water Act established water quality goals for the navigable (surface) waters of the United States. One of the mechanisms for achieving the goals of the Clean Water Act is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System of permits (MPDES permits), which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has authorized the State of Washington to administer the NPDES permit program.

The regulations adopted by the state include procedures for issuing permits, technical criteria for discharges from municipal wastewater treatment facilities, water quality criteria for surface and ground waters, and sediment management standards. These regulations require that a permit be issued before discharge of wastewater to waters of the State is allowed. One of the requirements for issuing a permit under the NPDES permit program is the preparation of a draft permit and an accompanying fact sheet.

Statistical analysis needed to explain data in fact sheet

To add key statistical analysis to their fact sheets, government regulators turned to KaleidaGraph. KaleidaGraph is used to illustrate past performance and trends. The issuance of a water discharge permit is a public process – KaleidaGraph is an important tool that offers the public an easy way to understand the data. “During the course of permit issuance, we are often involved in negotiations with our Permittees over monitoring requirements or wastewater discharge limits.” states Richard Marcley, Governmental Regulator and KaleidaGraph user since 1996. “The statistical functions and flexibility of the graphing package allows me to present the rationale of our decisions in clear visual terms.”

Mike’s Growers is required to self monitor their facility according to monitoring requirements established by the permit. They submit data on a host of parameters on a monthly basis. That data is entered into an Ecology database. In addition they may be required to collect data on the receiving water.

Using KaleidaGraph, a graph is created that shows statistical analysis of four years of Mike’s Growers’ BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) data that has been segregated into three distinct processing seasons and a three year cumulative average encompassing all seasons throughout the year. Error bars are added around the individual means which are based on an 86% confidence interval. This information is included in the Fact Sheet (which accompanies the Waste Discharge Permit).

“I place depictions of environmental and engineering performance data in the text of my documents for the ease of the reader’s eyes and to present a more overall polished product,” states Richard. “The ability to edit titles and legends and manipulate their properties is important to me. Often a regression line, multiple variables, and Double Y scatter plots can better convey the information than dense text. I often use KaleidaGraph to pursue the data using various mathematical functions, statistics, and graph styles to see if I can see trends that otherwise might go unobserved.”

Communication of scientific findings to the general public

The creation and enforcement of wastewater discharge permits is a key factor in protecting the water quality of the state. Government regulators need to assure discharges do not violate state and federal water pollution laws. Richard’s mission is clear: he wants to communicate scientific findings in a manner the general public can understand, perhaps enjoy and react in an informed manner to alter their behavior or affect political will when it comes to the environment.

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