City's Water Lab Clearly Innovative

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - When most people hear about DNA testing, they usually think of their favorite CSI television show. But because of Assistant Director of Water Quality and Treatment Gabriel Ramirez’s hard work, knowledge and innovation, the Corpus Christi O. N. Stevens Water Treatment Plant is now equipped with its own DNA lab. It is the first DNA lab in the country to be used for routine testing at a municipal water treatment plant. While the researching and building of the facility was a project that took nearly two years to complete, Ramirez’s trailblazing work is only just beginning.

“We use chloramine to disinfect the water,” said Ramirez. “To make sure that the chloramine treatment is effective, we want to analyze the bacteria which causes a process called nitrification and the DNA lab is able to detect a specific gene in the bacteria that would negatively affect the water quality.”

Simply put, Ramirez says the DNA lab analyzes the water’s biology to detect potential problems before they event have a chance to occur. The DNA lab stands as a formidable preventative measure in assuring water quality. Since opening in October of 2014, the lab’s innovation has not gone unnoticed. It has received kudos from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) when it awarded the facility the Proactive and Innovative Public Water System Award in 2015.  The same year, the lab was recognized by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) for doing DNA testing of water on a regular basis.

“Our goal is to be predictive,” said Ramirez. “That means being able to isolate any problems and get them solved faster, because it is much better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to water quality."