If you had any doubt about the quality of your water, hopefully you can put those concerns to rest after hearing what exactly goes into ensuring your water quality every single day with Charlotte Water.
Your drinking water and wastewater are rigorously tested with hundreds of samples passing through the labs in our Charlotte Environmental Services Facility daily. In fact, in 2022 it was reported that Charlotte Water performed over 170,000 tests on both unregulated and regulated substances!
Samples arrive from all the wastewater treatment facilities, drinking water treatment facilities, and sampling stations placed around the region. From the moment the sample comes through the door, the samples are checked in with careful quality control measures to be sure the samples are not contaminated and fit for further testing.
After the check-in phase, a water sample can go through a variety of tests. The lab has sections committed to testing for grease and oils, biological compounds, nutrients, and metals just to name a small few out of the hundreds of compounds they test. To get an idea of how far the lab goes to test samples, they have several mass spectrometers used regularly to test samples down to a molecular level.
The lab technicians are well-trained and passionate individuals that all have a heart for public service. I had the chance to tour the lab for several hours one afternoon and spoke to many of the techs, and all of them expressed passion for their work and take their role extremely seriously.
Did you know you can review the results of our water quality testing? The 2022 report is available to you and is made available every year for public viewing! You can check out the report here .
Lab analysts play a critical role in our water distribution system. They are responsible for testing our water system on a daily basis, conducting approximately 195,000 tests per year! Sarah Harris, a Lab Analyst at our Environmental Services Facility, takes us around the lab to share what a typical day is like in her role.
Sarah works in the receiving department of the lab, where lab analysts receive all of the water samples that need to be tested that day. On a typical day, Sarah arrives between 7:30-8:00am, and the lab opens each day at 8:00am, and they accept water samples up until 3:00pm each day. At the beginning of each day, the analysts will calibrate anything they will need to use for the day, i.e. thermometers, the cold room, etc. and check the Di (deionized) water system for quality control.
Then they wait on their first samples to come in, both water and wastewater. Lab analysts test the drinking water every single day; each day they test for total coliforms and E.coli, and the first Tuesday of every month they test for taste and smell. They do a mineral analysis twice a month, looking for silica metals, suspended solids, and turbidity. Every couple of months the lab also receive samples for testing from our lakes, which each have different properties.
The lab is all about quality control – everything that touches a sample is very important! Everything must be handled and cleaned carefully in order to prevent any type of cross-contamination to any of the samples or tools they use for testing. They even test the air in the lab once every month!
The water distribution system is tested at the end of the day. Lab field staff have designated water sampling station checkpoints where they retrieve their samples. They test the water for the “Big 10” metals, i.e. lead, mercury, etc. They also check the fluoride content and bacterial status.
Lab analysts will test their water samples for 24 hours in certain conditions that would cause certain bacteria to grow if it were present in the water sample. Water samples are placed onto agar plates and placed into a water bath for 24 hours.
Sarah began working for Charlotte Water a little over a year ago in early March, right when the pandemic began and many of our staff began working from home. Sarah was part of the lab’s hand sanitizer project that the lab coordinated during the pandemic in 2020, when hand sanitizer was scarce.
Sarah’s favorite part of her job is that the work itself if very rewarding, knowing that lab analysts play a vital role in the health and safety of the community. Sarah also shares that she enjoys working in a fun and friendly team-oriented environment. She works on a team of three analysts, herself included, who work in the receiving lab, and there are a little more than 30 total analysts working in the entire lab division.
There is also good amount of paperwork, and documentation that goes into a lab analyst’s role – it’s not always the most exciting part, but it is definitely an important step!
Sarah also receives calls from customers who call in to 311 with any complaints or concerns about their water. The lab staff are required to check the customer’s water for every complaint that is called in.
Thank you Sarah for showing us around the lab and sharing some of the important work that you do! We appreciate all of our lab analysts and their hard work to provide safe and clean water to our community!
Continue to follow along this week as we will share more “day in the life” stories of our staff members during National Drinking Water Week!
You should! But if you are still not convinced, you may be after reading this. Our lab staff tests your drinking water all day every day, from locations all over Mecklenburg County and beyond to ensure that when water leaves the drinking water treatment plants, it’s still the same quality when it arrives at your home or business. Continue reading Do you trust us to deliver you clean and safe drinking water?→