ChemRight Laboratories, Inc. CHEMRIGHT LABORATORIES, INC.

The Right Results, Right Away!

117 North Main St - Maquoketa, IA 52060
(563) 652-4226 · Fax (563) 652-6137

Hours of Operation

OPEN: TUE through FRI
(Closed 12-1pm for lunch)
SAT - SUN: Closed
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General Questions and Answers | Water Questions

ChemRight uses a variety of different methods. For request of bacteria Present or Absent, we use a product form IDEXX® called Colilert®. For quantitative analysis we use the IDEXX® reagent utilizing the quantitray technique or mColiblue 24® from Millipore®. These methods are EPA approved for drinking water and surface (ambient) water. We use these methods because they are so specific that they do not require confirmation tests, which allows us to provide faster feedback to our customers.
There are a number of methods for both of these parameters. The most common is the use of an ion specific (or selective) electrode. While CRL has some of this equipment, we prefer to use ion chromatography for both fluoride and nitrate in drinking water. Ion chromatography is the most accurate and reliable method available.
The state of Iowa and the EPA recommend that users of well water have it tested for bacteria and other potential parameters of concern once per year. For more detailed information, see the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
You results should be available within 2-3 days after you submit your water sample.
You could but it is not likely to provide an accurate test – especially if you want to check for bacteria. Please refer to the publication "Sampling Water and Wastewater.pdf" for detailed instructions on proper drinking water sampling, or stop by the lab and we can give you a sterile container to take the water sample, along with complete instructions to make sure your results will be accurate.
Bacteria tests need to be started within a few hours of arrival at the lab. Someone properly trained must process the sample and then read the results 24 hours later. Having your samples here by 3pm provides us the necessary time to complete the sample prep and get the samples into the incubators prior to closing at 4pm. Normally we can not accept samples on Friday because the lab is not open on Saturday for someone to read the results.
Bacteriological testing requires that the testing begin within a few hours of taking the sample in order to insure quality results. Overnight shipping of samples to a more distant lab could result in false positive or false negatives and is not an option recommended by EPA or the State of Iowa if it can be avoided.
Yes. Just let us know when you drop off the sample and we can provide an extra copy of the test report you can send to your dentist. That way your dentist can evaluate the naturally occurring fluoride you are getting in your drinking water and adjust your dental treatments accordingly. Please see the publication Drinking Water Fluoride Testing for more information.
Simple mistakes can often mean the difference between an accurate sample and an inaccurate one. For example, inadvertently touching the rim of the collection bottle with your hand or not properly flushing the water line can result in an "unsafe" reading, even though your water may be perfectly safe. If you think that you made a sampling mistake that compromised the accuracy of your test results, review the sampling instructions and resubmit a sample of your water. If you are sure that you took the sample correctly and the sample is truly representative of the health of your water, it is important to determine how and where the total coliform bacteria got in the water system. Usually such contamination results from a structural defect either at the well or someplace in the distribution system.
At this point, you have two choices: take additional samples at strategic locations (i.e. at the well head; before and after water treatment devices) or contact your local county sanitarian (2017 list from the IDNR) to complete a sanitary survey on your well and distribution system. Work with a reliable, competent water treatment dealer to select the treatment method best suited for your situation. Shock chlorinating your well is also recommended. Two or three days after completing treatment, take another sample and submit it to CRL to ensure that the treatment is effective and your water is safe.
If you are concerned about the general health and safety of your water, then the state of Iowa recommends testing for total coliform bacteria and nitrate - the two most common contaminants that Iowans are likely to find in their water. However, if there was a nearby pesticide spill or other event that may have caused a contaminant to get into your water, then request a test for that specific contaminant.
The infant health advisory or MCL (maximum contaminant level) established by the Environmental Protection Agency is 10mg/L (as N) or 45mg/L (as NO3). An infant consuming high levels of nitrate may develop methemoglobinemia, also referred to as blue baby syndrome. Ingesting high levels of nitrates will not cause methemoglobinemia in adults.
Just because water has an off taste or is discolored does not always mean that the water is unsafe for human consumption. There are naturally occurring bacteria and chemicals that can cause taste and odors that aren't harmful to you. However, if you are concerned about the safety of your water, test for total coliform bacteria and nitrate to determine if the supply is contaminated.
Rotten egg odor is usually due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide. This contaminant can cause taste and odor problems in water, but the presence of hydrogen sulfide is not a health threat.
Testing for EVERY possible contaminant in water is not only cost-prohibitive but also usually unnecessary. If you are concerned about the safety of your water, the best approach to take is to limit the testing to reasonable contaminants. The state of Iowa recommends testing for total coliform bacteria and nitrate, which are good indicators of water quality. However, if you are aware of a nearby chemical spill or that a chemical was accidentally back-siphoned into your well, be sure to request a test for the specific contaminant.
Iron bacteria are common organisms found in groundwater. These organisms do not pose a health threat, but they are considered nuisance organisms because they can cause taste, odor and/or staining problems.
If you are concerned that your livestock's health is at-risk, consult your veterinarian. S/he can determine if the illness is linked to the water or some other source. If it is determined that the cause for your animal's illness is linked to the water supply, then ChemRight will test for the specific contaminant recommended by your veterinarian.
Generally, mg/L is used by the scientific community and gpg is used by the water treatment industry. The conversion formula is: 1 gpg = 17.1 mg/L.
The "white stuff" found in some coliform sampling bottles is sodium thiosulfate, a chlorine neutralizing chemical that inactivates chlorine so that a valid total coliform bacteria test can be obtained. The sodium thiosulfate should NOT be rinsed from the bottle even if there is no chlorine residual in the system.
The effect of nitrate on adults is unclear and no unsafe level has been established. However, high levels of nitrates have been linked to certain types of cancer in adults although there has been no definitive cause and effect established.
Where you collect your water sample depends on your purpose for testing. Generally speaking, the sample should be taken from the faucet that is most frequently used for drinking purposes.
Not necessarily. By themselves, total coliform bacteria are not a health problem. However, the presence of coliform implies that the system has been compromised and harmful organisms may already be present or have the opportunity to enter the system. Since it is impossible to test for the presence of all possible harmful microorganisms, if coliforms are found in the drinking water, the water should be considered unsafe for human consumption and corrective measures taken.
Prior to chlorination, any defects that allow total coliform bacteria to enter your water distribution system should be fixed. To treat a total coliform bacteria problem with shock chlorination, you must have both an adequate amount of chlorine and an adequate amount of contact time (between the water and the chlorine) to destroy the microorganisms. If that is accomplished, then the well water should be safe for human consumption. However, those who shock chlorinate need to be sure to purge their water faucets until there is no detectable taste or smell of chlorine. Any residual chlorine or chlorine by-products can be removed by using an activated carbon filter. Chlorination may eliminate bacteria, but will not eliminate other contaminants that may be present.
"Chloroform" is a common way that coliform is incorrectly pronounced. It is also a chemical that can be found in drinking water as a byproduct of the chlorination process.
There is some risk in using bacterially unsafe water for any of these activities. To ensure your safety, use water that falls within the limits of the MCLs (maximum contaminant levels).
Collecting and testing specifically for giardia is difficult and therefore drinking water is screened for the possible presence of giardia (or other parasites) by first testing for total coliform bacteria. If the drinking water is free of total coliform bacteria, then it is extremely unlikely that giardia is present and no further testing is necessary. However, if total coliform bacteria are detected, consult your county sanitarian for additional guidance.