LAKE LINDEN, Michigan (April 28, 2014) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has notified Nitrate Elimination Company, Inc. (NECi) of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that NECi’s accurate and cost-effective method for nitrate analysis “meets all requirements for measurement of nitrate and combined nitrate-nitrite in wastewater.” The NECi method is an environmentally friendly replacement for the old cadmium-based method – using nitrate reductase in the place of cadmium – and is the first enzyme-based method for regulatory analysis of water approved in the U.S.
Enzyme-based nitrate analysis was developed at NECi with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The multi-lab validation study, which included an equipment manufacturer in Finland, was funded by a matching grant from Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Emerging Technologies Fund.
“Customers have reliably used our method for about a decade, but it has been unavailable to labs that rely on EPA-approved methods. The EPA’s approval will enable many more labs to move their nitrate analysis into the 21st century and away from the many problems and costs of cadmium-based analysis,” said Ellen Campbell, vice president of NECi.
Testing for nitrate is imperative to maintain a healthy population and environment. Nitrate reductase is an enzyme that replaces cadmium in the traditional EPA nitrate determination method. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal, while nitrate reductase is a safe, biodegradable protein. Using NECi’s enzymatic method creates a “greener” workplace for laboratory employees – cost-effectively and providing comparable or improved accuracy.
“The news about the nitrate reductase EPA approval is extraordinary. I can’t wait until every lab around the world is using this environmentally friendly technique,” said a Thermo Fisher Scientific team member.
Nitrate (NO3-) accumulates in the environment through various means, including over application of nitrogen fertilizers, leaching in runoff from factory farms, releases from industrial processes, and motor vehicles exhaust. Nitrate is one of two contaminants listed by the EPA to “pose an immediate threat to health whenever (it’s) exceeded.” It is especially toxic to infants, since it is known to cause methemoglobinemia which decreases available oxygen supply from blood. Nitrate toxicity also affects livestock, and nitrate accumulation in costal waters is responsible for algal blooms around the world.
The approval of NECi Method N07-0003, Method for Nitrate Reductase Nitrate-Nitrogen Analysis, came from the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology. The method works on any wet chemistry photometric application, such as automated discrete analyzers and micro plate analyzers, and can be adapted to almost any format or machine. The enzymatic method has been used for years at laboratories of the U.S. Geological Survey and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In addition to supplying enzymes to high-profile laboratories, NECi offers easy-to-use test kits for determining nitrate content in any water, soil, plant tissue or livestock feed sample. NECi encourages citizen scientists to gather nitrate concentration data to protect water quality in their communities across the U.S.
NECi thanks MTEC SmartZone for their support of the community and contribution’s to NECi’s success.
MTEC SmartZone CEO Marilyn Clark said, “We are really impressed by the progress Nitrate Elimination has made to help drive innovation in the Keweenaw and strengthen their U.S. competitiveness. They have a vision and hard work is paying off.”