MetCom gets state OK to test drink­ing wa­ter

Agency to check for co­l­iform and E. coli

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By TAY­LOR DEVILLE tdev­[email protected]­

The Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment re­cently cer­ti­fied St. Mary’s County Metropoli­tan Com­mis­sion to be able to test its own drink­ing wa­ter.

The wa­ter qual­ity lab­o­ra­tory des­ig­na­tion “as­sures the re­li­a­bil­ity of the Safe Drink­ing Wa­ter Act com­pli­ance sam­ples an­a­lyzed by state cer­ti­fied lab­o­ra­to­ries,” ac­cord­ing to the state en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment.

“We are very proud of the work that our col­lec­tions, distri­bu­tion, lab­o­ra­tory and op­er­a­tions [and] main­te­nance staff do each and ev­ery day to en­sure our fa­cil­i­ties com­ply with state and fed­eral reg­u­la­tions,” MetCom Di­rec­tor Ge­orge Erich­sen said in a state­ment.

The des­ig­na­tion also al­lows MetCom to an­a­lyze bac­te­ria and E. coli sam­ples from drink­ing wa­ter in house rather than through a third party

lab­o­ra­tory, sav­ing the com­mis­sion be­tween $700 and $800 a month.

MetCom pre­vi­ously paid around $15 to $16 for test­ing on around 90 co­l­iform and E. coli sam­ples per month, Erich­sen said in an in­ter­view.

MetCom also mon­i­tors pH lev­els monthly and chlo­rine con­cen­tra­tions twice per week at the com­mis­sion’s 28 sys­tems across the county.

The pro­gram ad­heres to En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency stan­dards. Prior to grant­ing the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, MDE per­son­nel visit ap­pli­cants to “see if they have proper in­stru­ments for what they’re” ap­ply­ing to test, in ad­di­tion to over­see­ing a pro­fi­ciency test, Jay Ap­per­son, deputy di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at MDE.

Out of the 45 other cer­ti­fied test­ing labs listed on MDE’s web­site, there are only a few mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter and sewer providers with the des­ig­na­tion. MetCom is the only state-cer­ti­fied lab in the county.

The com­mis­sion will still have to use a third party lab, ALS En­vi­ron­men­tal in Columbia, to mon­i­tor lead and cop­per, ar­senic, flu­o­ride, ni­trates, met­als and dis­in­fec­tion byprod­ucts, although Erich­sen said he is look­ing into be­com­ing cer­ti­fied to test those sam­ples, too.

That lab is not listed on MDE’s list of state cer­ti­fied drink­ing wa­ter fa­cil­i­ties.

Not in­clud­ing the sav­ings from in-house test­ing, the com­mis­sion spends roughly $20,000 on third party lab test­ing, Erich­sen said.

The com­mis­sion also an­a­lyzes wastew­a­ter sam­ples at the Mar­lay-Tay­lor wastew­a­ter recla­ma­tion fa­cil­ity.

If MetCom de­tects ab­nor­mal lev­els of co­l­iform or E. coli dur­ing test­ing, they would have 24 hours to no­tify the state af­ter retest­ing to make sure the re­sults were not an anoma- ly, and “to find out whether it’s the in­di­vid­ual house or if the sys­tem has an is­sue,” Erich­sen said.

So far, “100 per­cent of the time, it’s just an odd­ball test and the retest­ing comes back neg­a­tive,” Erich­sen added.

If the retest­ing comes back pos­i­tive, there would be a pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tion process, but that hasn’t hap­pened yet, Erich­sen said.

MetCom re­leases an­nual wa­ter qual­ity re­ports on its web­site.

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