FROM THE BENCH
Utility Laboratories and Public Health
By Hunter Adams , MS , environmental laboratory supervisor , City of Wichita Falls , TX and Mark Southard , water source / purification superintendent , City of Wichita Falls , TX
Environmental laboratory testing involves analysis of water , soil and / or air . Targeted contaminants of interest are usually those that adversely affect the environment , humans or wildlife . One type of widespread environmental laboratory is the water and wastewater utility laboratory . There are over 147,000 public water systems and over 16,000 public wastewater systems in the United States , and each is responsible for analyzing samples in their laboratories or sending samples out to be analyzed to meet regulatory compliance .
Utility Laboratories and Public Health
Water and wastewater utility laboratories exist to monitor process control in treatment plants and contaminants in finished water . This monitoring is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency ( US EPA ) and state primacy agencies in such a way that the end goal is the protection of public health . Water utility laboratories protect the public health of those who drink the produced tap water , and wastewater utility laboratories protect the public health of those downstream of wastewater effluent discharges .
However , many utility laboratories do not view themselves as a public health-related entity . This ideology is fundamentally wrong and can have various detrimental effects to public health due to this misunderstanding . Laboratory funding — whether for equipment , instrumentation , consumables or personnel — can be indicative of how administrators view its role in this regard . The culture change must start at the top to permeate the industry and change the way the laboratory ’ s role is viewed .
Cypress Environmental Laboratory
The Cypress Environmental Laboratory ( CEL ) is a municipal environmental laboratory owned and operated by the City of Wichita Falls Public Water System
The Cypress Environmental Laboratory Staff ( from l to r ): Sam Reeder , Hunter Adams and Emily Appleton . Photo : CEL
Public Health-related Programs
Utility laboratories are responsible for many public health-related programs that are designed and regulated to protect public health and the environment using water andwastewater laboratories to generate the data used for compliance . Programs include :
• National Pollution Discharge Elimination System
( NPDES ): Created in 1972 by the Clean Water Act ( CWA ), this is a permit program that addresses water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants . Every wastewater effluent discharge in the United States operates under an NPDES permit and is monitored by laboratories .
• National Primary Drinking Water Regulations
( NPDWR ): Established in 1985 with authority from the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act ( SDWA ), NPDWRs are legally enforceable primary standards and treatment techniques that apply to public water systems . They protect the public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water .
• Revised Total Coliform Rule
( RTCR ): Published in 2013 as a revision to the 1989 rule , RTCR uses coliforms an indicator to determine the adequacy of water treatment and the integrity of the distribution system .
• Lead and Copper Rule
( LCR ): Published in 1991 ( 1 ) and 2021 ( 2 ), LCR requires monitoring of lead and copper at customer taps . The 2021 revision takes effect in 2024 and will require additional monitoring at schools and childcare facilities .
• Disinfection Byproduct Rule 2
( DPBR2 ): Published in 1998 ( 1 ) and 2006 ( 2 ), DBPR ’ s goal is to reduce drinking water exposure of disinfection byproducts , i . e ., haloacetic acids , trihalomethanes , chlorite , bromate .
• Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
( UCMR ): Published in 2002 , UCMR ’ s goal is to collect data for contaminants that are suspected to be present in drinking water and do not currently have health-based standards set under the SDWA .
12 LAB MATTERS Fall / Winter 2021