Well-Water Testing for Food Producers

Well-Water Testing for Food Producers


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Jason Bolton:  Hello. My name is Jason Bolton. I’m the state‑wide food safety educator
for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Today I have with me Laura Wilson who’s a
water quality scientist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Today we’re
going to be talking about food safety and how it’s related to water quality. Now this
is based for processors who are making food. Now this could be a home kitchen where you’re
producing food, or it could be a licensed commercial facility. If you’re on a public
water source, you don’t have to have your water tested annually. It’s tested for you
at the facility. But if you’re on well water, then you need to have it tested once a year.
This test consists of going to an accredited lab and having it tested for coliform bacteria,
nitrites, and nitrates. Now Laura is going to show you how to actually sample your water.
Laura Wilson:  So it’s really easy to obtain a well water test in Maine. You first have
to find that certified laboratory, and there are a number of them throughout the state.
Once you’ve determined which laboratory you want to use, then think about what additional
tests might be appropriate for you to get. In addition to the bacteria, nitrate, and
nitrite tests that are required, the Maine Center for Disease Control recommends that
everyone in Maine on a private well tests that well for arsenic, radon, uranium, lead,
and fluoride every three to five years. If you are considering these extra tests, great.
If not, that’s fine, but you need to know which tests you want before you call the lab
so they know which test kit bottles to send you.
Once you contact the lab and tell them which tests you want, they will send you bottles
in order to get your water samples into to send back to the lab. Before you open up those
bottles though, open up the directions from the lab, read them carefully, and be sure
to follow them. Some of those tests depend on what time of day you obtain your sample,
and some of the bottles have to be handled very carefully.
So please follow those directions, and also pay attention to their directions for sending
the water back to the lab. Some of these samples are time‑dependent from the time that you
put the water in the bottle until the time they need to put them into their machine.
So getting them back to the lab in a timely manner is essential.
What happens next is that the lab will send you a report showing whether you have or don’t
have that contaminant that you were looking for in your well water. If you have any questions
or concerns, you can contact us or contact the Maine CDC, especially if you have questions
about how to interpret those test results or questions about how to treat the water
for any potential contaminants. Jason:  So to recap, if you’re a commercial
food processor and you’re on well water, you need to have your well water tested once a
year. This test is for coliform bacteria, nitrites, and nitrates. If you’re applying
for a commercial food processing license and it’s your first time, then you need to have
that done within 30 days. If it’s a renewal, it’s within 12 months.
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