Water Testing Laboratory
For more than 20 years, Morehead State University's Water Testing Laboratory has been striving to ensure that the citizens of East Kentucky have safe drinking water; now, that mission has expanded to cover the Commonwealth.
The laboratory oversees the Laboratory Certification Program for the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet. "The cabinet is required by federal regulations to maintain a certification program for all public water systems or commercial laboratories performing microbiological analysis of drinking water," said Dr. Ted Pass, laboratory director.
Within the state, there are 38 laboratories in 23 counties with approximately 60 analysts that are certified, Dr. Pass noted. He, along with laboratory manager Rita Wright, act as certification program managers, completing annual audits and ensuring that all laboratories are adhering to Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Public water systems are required to submit monthly water samples for bacteriological analysis to a certified laboratory to ensure their customers are receiving safe drinking water. "The number of samples has grown tremendously in the last 10 years," Wright said, "from approximately 10 samples per month in 1979 to more than 400 per month in 2001." Samples come from public and private companies, federal agencies, health departments and well drillers.
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Since it began operation in 1979, the MSU laboratory has performed microbiological analysis for those in the community and approximately 25 surrounding counties. Because of its extensive involvement in water quality within the state, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet, Division of Water, Drinking Water Branch, contracted with MSU in 1991 to become the Commonwealth of Kentucky's Principle Microbiology Laboratory, a role that continues today.
The laboratory has assisted the state's Division of Water with environmental issues which have impacted source and drinking water, such as the fish kill in the Kentucky River in 1999.
To serve as certification program managers, the laboratory staff must receive continual training. Dr. Pass and Wright attend numerous programs each year, including the U.S. EPA workshop in Cincinnati. They recently received certification to perform audits of laboratories performing microbiological analysis of drinking water in Region IV, which is a six-state division that includes Kentucky and Tennessee.
MSU is currently pursuing a four-year contract with the state's Division of Water to continue management of the Certification Program through 2006. "We want to ensure that all citizens are receiving safe drinking water. After all 'safe drinking water is our business'," Dr. Pass said.