Civil and Environmental Engineering


Date of this Version



Branigan, J. (2013). "Development of a Field Test for Total Suspended Solids Analysis." M.S. thesis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Civil Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor John Stansbury. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Jessica A. Branigan


Total suspended solids (TSS) are all particles in water that will not pass through a glass fiber filter with a pore size less than 2 μm, including sediments, algae, nutrients, and metals. TSS is an important water quality parameter because of its adverse effects on aquatic species and wildlife. The EPA has proposed a regulation for turbidity, a related water quality parameter, which has been stayed pending further testing. TSS is regulated through the EPA via the NPDES in many states. Since there are no accepted field tests for TSS, projects with TSS regulations must send samples to a laboratory for analysis, which can delay projects for days. The goal of this research was to develop a rapid, cost-effective, and consistent method for direct measurement of TSS in the field.

Theoretical analyses of three initial designs (centrifugation, rapid heating, and rapid filtration using vacuum assist) showed that in order to obtain sufficient suspended material to measure in the field, too much water would be needed for each sample to be feasible for centrifugation and rapid heating. A new prototype rapid filtration system design was developed for evaluation. Subsequent testing showed this system to be inaccurate. A second system was modified the method was modified to for rapid filtration with no vacuum. Testing of this system also showed results were not precise enough to be a feasible field test.

It was concluded that none of the described methods were currently feasible, and that the laboratory test could also have inaccuracies in measuring water samples tested to meet regulation standards.

Adviser: John Stansbury