IER News Issue 12
January 2024

IER News Issue 12 – January 2024

A Letter from Doug Kelley, President of IER

Headshot of Doug Kelley, President of IER

Hi everyone! I hope everybody had a very relaxing and Merry Christmas! No stopping the train – we’re on to 2024! Am I the only one feeling like the world is spinning too fast? It’s time to step back; maybe take a little Milk of Magnesia to calm the engines 😊.

In this IER Newsletter, we share a short video from our sparkling new manufacturing facility in Lufkin, TX, showing a dosage comparison of Caustic Soda versus ALKA-Mag+, which demonstrates the 40% usage rate reduction when switching from the hazardous to non-hazardous product. We’re eager to help Texas and nearby states’ wastewater treatment operations become safer and more cost-effective.

Additionally, the IER newsletter includes a conversational technical piece explaining a common benchtop experiment to illustrate the distinction between chemical reactivity and power. While caustic soda is highly reactive, it is not a very powerful alkali. This simple experiment shows how ALKA-Mag+ effectively maintains a stable pH and is the gentlest among alkaline products.

Last, but not least, we are excited to introduce you to Gunnar Walter, one of our fantastic operations and delivery specialists at our Centralia, WA facility.  Gunnar is one of many newer members of IER who provides tremendous energy, support, and vision to help propel IER into the next generation.

I hope you enjoy the newsletter!

Magnesium Hydroxide – the Most Powerful and the Most Gentle

This is a common discussion I’ve had over the years with wastewater operations folks that struggle to understand this reality.  I’ve decided to put my text into a conversational form in order to reflect the standard way these discussions have gone over the years.  Enjoy!

The superintendent mentioned that when 50% NaOH (caustic soda) was dosed into their wastewater, the pH climbed to a higher level than when dosed with the same amount of 60% Mg(OH)2 (ALKA-Mag+).  Therefore, he concluded that caustic soda is the more powerful additive, as it drove the pH up higher.  In addition, he saw the hazardous nature of caustic soda as further proof that it is much more powerful than “milk of magnesia”.

I agreed with him that while caustic is dramatically more reactive and hazardous, I could show him that magnesium hydroxide is much, much more powerful – and it’s not even close!

To demonstrate, I went to my favorite little benchtop test – the Vinegar Test.  We started with two beakers each holding 200 mL of grocery store vinegar at a pH of 2.3, and added 12 mL of each alkaline product into a beaker.

Once we added 50% NaOH into the 1st beaker, the pH rapidly shot up to 12.2.  “Wow, that was really powerful!”, he exclaimed.  “No,” I corrected, “that was dramatically reactive, but not powerful.  There’s a difference.  Let’s go on.”

We then added ALKA-Mag+ into the 2nd beaker, and stirred and waited, and stirred and waited.  After 5 minutes the pH had only climbed to 8.9.  He said, “See, your milk of magnesia barely took the pH above neutral!”  My response was, “Uh-huh, let’s keep going.”

Since in both cases the alkaline additive took the pH above neutral, we decided to dose more vinegar into each beaker and titrate until the pH dropped back down to 7.

We first dosed 40 mL of vinegar into the Caustic Soda beaker.  The pH rapidly dropped from 12.2 to 6.9 (below neutral).  Hmmm . . . it didn’t hold its pH very well.

We then dosed 40 mL of vinegar into the ALKA-Mag+ beaker.  The pH went immediately from 8.9 down to 5.5.  He gave me a smirk.  But with stirring for 3 minutes, the pH climbed back up to 8.7!  I returned his smirk.

We dosed another 40 mL of vinegar into the same beaker, and again the pH immediately dropped to 5.5, but then rose with stirring back to 8.5!

Again, we added 40 mL of vinegar into the ALKA-Mag+ beaker.  And again, the pH immediately dropped to 5.5, but then rose with stirring back to 8.2!

One more time we added 40 mL of vinegar into the ALKA-Mag+ beaker.  And again, the pH immediately dropped to 5.5, but then rose with stirring back to 7.6 – still above neutral!

In summary, two beakers were dosed with equal amounts of alkaline products.  We then back-titrated with 40 mL of vinegar into the Caustic Soda beaker and it dropped the pH from 12 all the way down to 7 (neutral).  Very little buffering strength – not very powerful.

Alternatively, it took an additional 160 mL of vinegar to bring the ALKA-Mag+ beaker down to neutral – and still it held a slightly alkaline pH!

He looked at me and agreed, “Okay, I get it – the most powerful and most gentle!”.


Introducing Gunnar Walter Delivery Specialist – Centralia WA

Before coming to work at IER Gunnar lived in San Francisco where he waited tables during the day, and in the evenings he managed a small Italian restaurant – all the while using his free time to explore San Francisco.

Looking for a change in careers, Gunnar went back to school to get his CDL and then came to work for IER as a Delivery Specialist in 2022.  Gunnar quickly learned to be a very reliable and professional delivery specialist, while also becoming proficient in the details of plant operations, and is a key team member of IER’s Centralia Facility.

In his free time Gunnar enjoys running, cooking, and studying the stock market.

Want to learn more about our other team members? Click here!

IER News Issue 11 – September 2023

A Letter from Doug Kelley, President of IER

Headshot of Doug Kelley, President of IER

Hello, everyone. I hope everybody has enjoyed, and is still enjoying a relaxing, happy, and healthy summer.  Though I have to admit, it’s been a challenge with the extremes of climate change beginning to pop up all around us.  Over the past few years, we’ve learned new terms like bomb-cyclone, heat-dome, and atmospheric-river.  You know things are changing when Northern Alberta’s forest fire season began in May!  These observations are daily reminders of how important it is to minimize the environmental stresses we’re causing to our planet.

To that end, by the time this newsletter goes out our new ALKA-Mag+ Hydration Plant will be in operation in Lufkin, TX!  This has been an incredible challenge to build through the midst of the pandemic, but we are finally there!  In our next newsletter we’ll have much more to share, but suffice it to say that we’re extremely excited to be able to offer our products and services to the Gulf Coast region!

Closer to our home in the Pacific Northwest, we are sharing the results from an incredibly interesting multiyear study at King County’s Brightwater Wastewater Treatment Plant to replace the use of caustic soda with ALKA-Mag+.  The original expectations were related to improving employee safety and cost savings from reduced chemical usage.  However, Brightwater’s membrane bioreactor facility observed dramatic process and flow improvements that resulted in significant energy savings and reduced carbon footprint!

Based on the great results from the Brightwater study, we carried out a literature review to see if there was any known science on the effect that the magnesium ion (Mg2+) might have on membranes.  What we found regarding the antimicrobial effect of magnesium on biofilm formation was extremely enlightening!  I hope you find time to read this interesting article.

Lastly, we are excited to introduce you to another of our stalwart IER employees.  This fellow has risen rapidly in our organization within a single year to take over the role of Plant Manager at our flagship plant in Pasco, WA.  Despite being new to the job, he has been a steadying force and a refreshing leader!  I hope you enjoy getting to know him a little better.

Enjoy the newsletter, and stay cool out there!

Introducing Evan Mendoza Pasco Plant Manager

Before coming to IER Evan worked for Lamb Weston for 15 years as a Production Team Leader, where he worked to ensure production schedules and goals were met while assuring the safety of his production team members.

Evan came over to IER in 2022 and took on the role of Plant Manager at IER’s Pasco plant.  In this role Evan oversees the day-to-day operations of the production and delivery of IER’s ALKA-Mag+.

In his time away from work Evan likes to spend time with his family, especially out on the soccer fields with his boys.

Want to learn more about our other team members? Click here!

Wastewater treatment plant

Magnesium Hydroxide for Improved Membrane Bioreactor Performance


The processes of treating wastewater have evolved dramatically since the Clean Water Act became law in 1974, resulting in scientific synergies that blend advances in engineering and microbiology to more effectively recover valued wastewater components.  For this reason, wastewater treatment plants are now called Water Resource Recovery Facilities (WRRF), producing clean water for reuse, nutritional solids for land reuse, and renewable energy – valuable resources!

This article describes a further synergy of engineering and microbiology with chemistry. More specifically, results are provided that demonstrate the dramatic benefits that can be observed by simply transitioning from the use of caustic soda (NaOH) to magnesium hydroxide (Mg(OH)2) as the alkalinity agent in a membrane bioreactor (MBR) wastewater system.

In this discussion we will share:

  • How an MBR compares with the conventional wastewater treatment process
  • Results and benefits of switching from NaOH to Mg(OH)2 for pH control
  • Effect of magnesium on biofilm growth

IER News Issue 10 – March 2023

A Letter from Doug Kelley, President of IER

Headshot of Doug Kelley, President of IER

Hello, everyone. I am writing this message on March 20th, the last day of winter!  Let’s hope we’re finished with the snow and cold, as I am SO ready for Springtime – daffodils, crocuses, cherry blossoms, and thawed-out metering pumps and feed lines!

During the winter months, IER’s Operations Team has been working hard to make further improvements to our new ALKA-Mag+ Magnesium Hydroxide product, so much so that we have put together a short video for this newsletter to show you the enhanced reactivity of our 60% slurry product!  We love to use Vinegar as the “acidic wastewater” in our beaker testing, making it relatively easy to see the difference in reactivity of various alkaline products.  For instance, a Vinegar Test similar to the one shown in our video was used over a decade ago by one of IER’s customers to demonstrate how a dose of 0.6 g of IER’s 60% Mg(OH)2 provided the same resulting pH as 1.0 g of 50% NaOH.  While this was consistent with the stoichiometric calculation, it was the first time anyone had demonstrated that performance in a beaker.  By the way, that customer is still an IER customer – one of our best!  Nothing better than being able to learn new stuff every day right along with your customers!
Regarding learning new stuff, I’ve written a three-part article that summarizes the benefits of Magnesium Hydroxide for use in three general areas of wastewater treatment:  1) pH adjustment in pretreatment, 2) collections system odor and corrosion control, and 3) alkalinity for full treatment at the water resource recovery facility.  I hope you find these useful to provide new insights into the observed benefits of such a strong, but gentle, nonhazardous product.

Finally, this newsletter highlights one of IER’s newest Plant Managers, Ryan Smith of Muscatine, Iowa.  Ryan is developing into a strong leader in our Midwestern Region, taking great pride in the ability of his team to manufacture only the highest quality Magnesium Hydroxide products and to provide the highest quality delivery and technical service.
I am so very proud of IER’s growing team of professionals that are dedicated to helping our customers realize the benefits of Magnesium Hydroxide-based products to help solve global wastewater challenges . . . because (yep), Mars is for quitters!
I hope you enjoy the newsletter!

Ryan Smith, Muscatine Plant Manager

Introducing Ryan Smith

Headshot of IER Muscatine Plant Manager Ryan SmithBefore joining IER, Ryan Smith ran his own construction company that focused on finishing carpentry in new homes until the softening of the housing market in 2008.  Ryan then shifted his focus to a calf cow farm operation that he ran with his family; in that process he got a CDL to help with farming operations.  While continuing to farm Ryan worked for 4 years at a start-up company in Rock Island IL, before joining IER.

At the Muscatine Plant, Ryan worked his way up from a Service Technician to Plant Manager, where he oversees the day-to-day operations of product manufacturing and delivery to the customers.

In his free time, Ryan enjoys riding horses and spending time in the outdoors with his family.

Want to learn more about our other team members? Click here!

IER News Issue 9 – December 2022

A Letter from Doug Kelley, President of IER

Hi Everyone!  It’s Christmastime!  I hope you all enjoyed Fall’s change of seasons, with Mother Nature giving us those glorious colors before going to sleep for a few months.  Now the snow is rapidly building in the Cascades, and the skiers are hitting the slopes!  Later this week we’ll have daytime highs of only 5oF in Spokane with overnight lows of -10oF – bbbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  

This is when we do our best to help our customers get through the cold weather months.  Please don’t ever hesitate to call on us if you’re struggling with the cold.  Nothing worse than frozen pumps and feed lines that can be avoided with a little proactive attention.

In this newsletter, we share a story about a customer that ran a trial of our new ALKA-Mag+ product right through the cold of last winter in an uninsulated thin-walled poly storage tank!  The quality of ALKA-Mag+ along with their proactive efforts definitely helped them make it through the winter without losing chemical feed.  The ability to maintain reliable feed of a slurry product regardless of the weather was critical, as wintertime in Washington state is the time of year when incoming flows are at a peak and alkalinity is at a minimum.

Since the terms “pH” and “alkalinity” are used so closely, we thought it would be good to include a short technical discussion on the difference between the two.  Hopefully it will help to better understand the importance of maintaining a strong buffer in your wastewater processes so that incoming “surprises” will not result in upset conditions.

Finally, in this newsletter you will be introduced to my better half, Theresa!  Being a relatively small company, members of our Administration Team need to “wear many hats” in order to keep the rest of us organized, and Theresa is amazing in her ability to manage our bookkeeping, accounting, and HR functions . . . not to mention helping to keep me pointed in the right direction!

Introducing Theresa Kelley

Prior to working at IER, Theresa was an administrative assistant and bookkeeper in the Skagit Valley area just north of Seattle, working for numerous companies in car sales, manufacturing, private flight services, and a college.  Most recently she decided to obtain her Paralegal Associates Degree and joined a Yakima, WA law firm.

Theresa began work at IER in January 2016 as a part-time administrative assistant.  When IER’s previous bookkeeper retired in early 2020, She accepted the challenge to become IER’s Full Charge Bookkeeper, providing invaluable support and guidance through the sale to Calix and the expansion that IER is currently undergoing..  Theresa is now in the process of transitioning back to a part-time role while maintaining a focus on HR and accounting responsibilities.

She enjoys a relaxing evening at home with a glass of wine and a TV show, or the occasional night out with music and friends.  Theresa is looking forward to less work hours and more time for a regular gym routine, book reading, bible study, visiting family, and exploring the world.