How To Use the Penn State Drinking Water Test Kit
- Hi, I'm Jim Clark, and I'm here today to talk to you about using the Penn State Drinking Water Test Kit to successfully analyze the quality of your drinking water.
Over 6500 drinking water samples have been submitted to the Penn State Water Lab for analysis since it opened in 2007.
Water test kits are available from the lab itself or your local Penn State Extension office.
This presentation will walk you through how to use the kit to submit the best water sample possible so you can get the most accurate analysis done on your drinking water.
This is the front door to the Penn State Ag Analytical Lab located at Penn State University.
This is where your drinking water test kit will end up.
This is also where your pond water test kits and soil test kits are also analyzed.
We are fortunate in Pennsylvania to have a university laboratory that is open for public use.
There are also private water labs throughout Pennsylvania that can be utilized.
The important factor is to make sure the water lab you do use holds a current accreditation from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection like the Penn State Ag Analytical Lab does.
Once you have your water test kit at home, open it up and see what is inside.
The entire kit comes in a pre-addressed cardboard box that is lined with a Styrofoam insulation box to help keep your water samples cool during shipping.
Once you take your water samples, this is the box they will go in for mailing to the Penn State water lab.
There are three sample collection bottles.
The smallest is a sealed bottle labeled Bacteria Bottle.
You will notice there is a little white pale or white powder in this bottle.
This is a preservative for your water sample.
Do not break the seal or open this bottle until seconds before you are ready to take your sample.
The second bottle with the orange sticker is used for a first-draw lead test on your water.
The final, the largest bottle, is used for all other water tests that you may want completed on your water sample.
There is a bag for you to partially fill with ice to again help in keeping the water cool for shipping.
Finally, there are several sheets of paperwork.
Let's start by looking at this paperwork.
There are three forms included in the kit.
The first is a one-page document that tells you how to use the water testing kit, which is what we are doing here in this presentation.
The second form tells you how to collect a drinking water sample, which is also what we will do in this presentation.
The third sheet is the drinking water ubmission form which you need to complete and return with your water sample.
Let's take a closer look at this submission form.
If we look at the back of the submission form first, you will see that there's a listing of the different water testing packages available.
There is an ID number for each package, such as WD01, the name of the package, such as Standard, what tests are included in that package, such as total coliform bacteria, e. coli bacteria, pH, and total dissolved solids.
And finally, there's the cost of that package, which at this point in time, the standard package case is $50.
The water test packages are cheaper than if you were to select all the individual tests done in that package.
The second section shows the individual tests that you can have done on your water sample.
Perhaps you don't want all the tests in the standard package.
You only want the total dissolved solids test run.
You can also add an individual water test to any of the water packages suggested by the lab.
This is a listing of the individual tests the water lab is prepared to do.
Keep in mind that not all water testing labs are set up to run all possible water tests.
You need to check with the lab to see if they can do the test you want to run on your water if it is not listed on the submission form.
On the front side of the Sample Submission Form, there is a place at the top where you provide the lab with your name and contact information.
You can also check the box if you only want the lab to send you the results and any correspondence about your water test through email.
There is also a box where you can have your water test results sent to someone else, such as the consultant you may be working with.
The next section is information about the sample.
They ask for a sample identification number.
This is the name of your sample, such as house number one well, in case you are sending several samples at the same time and you want to be sure you understand what sample the lab is talking about when you get your test results back.
The other important point here is to indicate what date and what time you took your sample.
This is mainly an issue with bacteria testing.
You have a 30-hour window from the time of sampling until the time the sample testing begins at the lab.
So if you're asking the lab to test your water supply for bacteria, you need to send the sample to the lab by overnight shipping to make it there within 30 hours.
You should also check with your mailing system and ask them what time their overnight mail goes and take your sample as close to that time without missing the mailing so you fall within the 30-hour requirement.
Your water test will be marked that it did not meet the 30-hour time requirement if it does not.
The next section is where you tell the lab what you want the sample analyzed for, either a packaged analysis or an individual test or both.
The final step is how you plan to pay for the testing, either by a check made out to Penn State University or by credit card.
This submission form and the check, if you are paying by check, should go in the plastic bag provided, and should go on top of the closed Syrofoam box container with the water samples, but inside the cardboard box for shipping.
Let's start with the First Draw Lead Test water bottle with the orange label.
Lead accumulates in the water from pipes as the water sits in the pipe.
The water should sit with the pipes for at least six hours.
So we would collect this sample first thing in the morning from the faucet where you get most of your drinking water before any water has been run from the faucet.
You want a first draw sample.
Simply remove the bottle lid, place the bottle under the faucet, and then collect the first water out of the faucet in the morning.
Fill the bottle to the top and screw the lid on tightly to prevent any leakage.
Refrigerate this first draw water sample until you are ready to send your water test kit to the laboratory.
The next sample we will look at is water sampling for bacteria.
You want the small bottle with the green label that says Bacteria Bottle.
Choose the faucet where you will sample your water.
Remember, this is the bottle with the white powder or small white pill used for preserving the sample.
We do not want to lose the preservative, so we do not want to run the water over the top.
We want to just fill the bottle to the 100 milliliter line marked on the bottle.
We also want to be careful not to contaminate the sample with bacteria that may be in the environment or on your hands.
It would probably be a good idea to wear latex gloves while taking this sample to avoid contamination of the sample.
This is why there is a seal on this bottle.
Do not touch inside the cap or the top of the bottle where the cap screws on.
Do not set the top of the bottle down on the counter or turn the top of the container over.
Always have it facing down.
Start the cold water flowing out of the faucet and let it run for about five minutes to purge the water from the plumbing and pipes, and draw fresh water in from the water supply.
Before you begin, you may want to remove any faucet aerators, as shown here, before collecting this water sample.
So let's review.
You start by purging the cold water line about five minutes.
It is best to wear gloves when taking a water sample for bacteria analysis.
Carefully break the water seal on the bacteria bottle and separate the lid from the bottle by unscrewing and lifting the cap straight up.
Be sure to hold the cap by the outside of the cap and your finger is away from the top of the bottle.
Place the bottle under the faucet and fill to the 100 milliliter line on the bottle.
Be careful also to not touch the top of the bottle with the tip of the water faucet to avoid contamination of your sample.
Do not overfill or overrun the bottle so you do not lose the preservative already in the bottle.
Screw the lid back on the bottle tightly to prevent any leakage.
Refrigerate the sample until you are ready to send it to the lab.
Remember, the samples for bacteria analysis must reach the lab within 30 hours of collection to produce accurate results.
The final sample bottle is the largest bottle, and has a yellow label which states "This bottle must be filled for all test packages." If you have selected any of the water test packages or any single test beyond first draw lead or bacteria, you must collect water in this sample container.
With this sample we want to, once again, run the water for five minutes first to make sure we are collecting fresh water from the water supply, and not water sitting in the pipes.
We want to rinse this bottle three times with the water from the faucet you are sampling.
Fill the bottle 1/3 full, screw the cap on and shake the bottle a few times.
Dump out the water, and do this two more times to completely rinse the bottle.
Finally, fill the bottle to the top.
Screw the lid on tightly to prevent any leakage.
Refrigerate the sample until you are ready to send the sample to the lab.
You are now ready to pack your water test kit with your samples.
Place all the filled sample bottles into the Styrofoam cooler provided.
Place all the sample bottles in the large plastic bag and seal it closed.
Place the bag of ice on top of the bottles and place it into the cooler.
Put the Styrofoam top on the cooler.
Place your completed submission form and check if paying by check, into a plastic bag and place it on top of the cooler inside the cardboard mailer box.
Then seal up the cardboard box.
Send the sample cooler to the laboratory so that it arrives at the laboratory within 30 hours of sampling.
Also, keep in mind that the lab is not open on the weekends, so it's best to ship these water sample boxes on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of any given week.
You may want to call the lab first if you are shipping around any holidays or special events when the lab may also be closed.
Once the water samples are received at the lab, they will be unpacked, and if a bacteria analysis is requested, the samples will be processed immediately.
It takes 24 hours to complete the bacteria test at the lab.
If a positive bacteria test is determined, you will be notified immediately even before your other water test analyses are completed, and a final water result test sheet is created.
Your Sample Submission Form is used to enter your data into the computer so your samples can be tracked as they are processed and a final water test report can be generated, and emailed or sent to your home.
Once your final water tests are mailed to you, Penn State takes the extra step of listing Penn State Extension personnel and their contact information at the bottom of your results in case you have problems understanding your test results.
It is important to save all your water test report results in a safe place so you can compare these numbers with other water tests you have done in the future.
We recommend you have your private water system tested every 14 months and then over the course of several years, you will understand the water quality in your private water supply throughout the year.
The Penn State Water Lab will never share your individual water test results.
However, for educational purposes, we do share the aggregate data by county of all the drinking water test results completed at the lab.
This data can be found at this website here.
Thank you for using the drinking water testing program offered through the Penn State Ag Analytical Lab.
Frequently Asked Questions