MetCom gets state OK to test drinking water
Agency to check for coliform and E. coli
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.