What's in Your Water Part Three

What's in Your Water Part Three

 Mississippi's EPA Region 4 certified Public Health Lab tests about 100,000 water samples a year, both from public and private water supply systems in the Magnolia State. 

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - On a tour of the lab, one of 60 types of testing were done on drinking water samples from around the state. The results were real, and one sample even tested positive for E-coli.

"We perform chemical and bacteriological testing for contamination in all of those samples," said Daphne Ware, the Director of the Department of Health's Public Health Lab. "We labeled them to make sure we have consecutive numbers on them, and that helps with tracking them as they go through testing."

After they are tested, the samples are entered into the laboratory information management system.

"This allows our data entry section to enter all the information that was on the test requisition while the technologists are performing their test," said Ware.

Ware said the system enables the lab to send out a paper report of the results to all the submitter's. The results then go to the Department of Health's public water supply program that enforces the additional treatments water associations may need performed on their water.

"We mix our water to make sure we get a valid test result. Then we have to pour out some of the water, it has to be only a certain amount of water. We add our coulometric reagent to each sample," said Ware.

The reagent helps determine if there is coliform or E-coli present. According to Ware, this particular reagent produces results in 18 hours.

She added that all of the boil water samples are analyzed using the 18 hour method to get the results out as quickly as possible.

"We place them in an incubator," said Ware.

Ware emphasized the temperature has to be just right, and monitored constantly at 95 degrees. Once they are out,the batch is reviewed for any color changes, specifically bright yellow.

"That indicates that there is total coliform in it," said Ware.

Ware said that total coliform is found through out soil and surface water. For the lab, bright yellow is indicative that there may be other pathogenic bacteria in the water sample.

To know for sure, the sample is put under a fluorescent light. Ware said the batch that was tested during the tour tested positive because it illuminated under the light.

"That could identify that this sample tends to have fecal contamination in the drinking water system," said Ware.

Positive or not, all samples that turn yellow are reported to the water supply program. Bacterial testing is just scratching the surface when it comes to testing water samples. The lab also test for elements that have to be added to water.

The Department of Health provided a list of substances that are found in the water of 10 counties in the Pine Belt.

In that list, Lime and Soda ash were found in more than 30 water systems in the Pine Belt.

To see the list, click here.