Safety and Quality of Drinkable Water
Eric Khambatta, R.S.
Environmental Health Specialist III
Water Lab Manager
Water Lab Closures
On the following dates, Grays Harbor County Drinking Water Laboratory we will be closed and not accepting any samples:
Closures for Jan. 1, 2023 - Jan. 1, 2024 as follows:
- Jan. 2, 2023
- Jan. 16
- Feb. 20
- May 29
- June 19
- July 3-4
- Sept. 4
- Nov. 9
- Nov. 22-23
- Dec. 25-26
- Jan. 1, 2024
LAB CLOSED ON ALL FRIDAYS. - Samples will not be accepted on the dates indicated above.
Questions? Please feel free to contact us at (360) 249-4222, or e-mail EHD@co.grays-harbor.wa.us
Property Sales: Grays Harbor County does not have any requirements for testing private wells for point of sale transactions for private homes. This requirement can be made by the lending institution, FHA, VA or other government agencies. Contact your lending institution to find out what tests they will require. Other Counties in our State may have local codes that require testing of drinking water and inspections of septic systems. Locally and regionally the most common tests for drinking water are bacteriological and nitrate testing. Only if suspect problems may be present in certain areas are other parameters tested. Do not wait until the last minute to get the water tested - get ahead of closing dates and test early. Bacteria tests are a 24-hour test and Nitrate testing is only conducted on Wednesdays. If you need a 3rd party water collection; a one to two week lead time may be required due to workload and scheduling.
WHAT EVERY REALTOR SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WELLS
- Water Sample Collection and Analysis Request - Need your water collected/tested by a 3rd party (not you or your realtor)? This form is only if you want the County to come out to your site to collect the water samples. Collection fees apply. If you are able to collect your water samples, follow instructions below under "Montesano Location"
- Chain of Custody Forms
- Disinfecting Contaminated Existing and New Wells
- Coliform Bacteria and Drinking Water
- Troubleshooting Checklist for Coliform Bacteria
- Simple Fixes for Wellhead Openings
- Emergency Disinfection of Water
- Emergency Water Storage
- Color, Odor, and Taste in Drinking Water
- Department of Health Coliform Information Packets
New/empty sample bottles may be obtained and paid for from the reception desk at the Grays Harbor County Public Services Department located on the 3rd floor of the County Administration Building in Montesano, 100 W Broadway, Suite 31; 9:00am-4:30pm M-F, Closed daily from 8-9am & 12-1pm.
Please note that from 8-9 AM and 12-1 PM a drop box is available in the lobby on the 3rd floor to SUBMIT samples, but bottles are only available for PURCHASE during the hours noted above.
Drinking Water Sample Drop off times:
Mon 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Tue 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Wed 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Thur 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Nitrate Testing Samples Accepted:
Tue 8:00am – 4:00pm
Wed 8:00am – 12:00pm
Water samples for nitrate testing must be taken on Tuesdays or Wednesdays only.
Samples taken or submitted on any other dates/times will be rejected.
Water Sample Submittal Instructions
- Each drinking water or nitrate sample has a fee of $29, which must be paid for at the Montesano location prior to analysis, unless an account has been set up for billing. PAYMENT BY CASH OR CHECK ONLY.
- Please read and follow the instructions located on the back of the water lab form. Improper handling could invalidate your sample.
- Drinking water samples CANNOT be tested if they are over 30 hours old. Environmental samples must be tested within 8 hours of collection. Call for Environmental sample pricing.
- Samples can ONLY be accepted in the bottles provided by the Environmental Health Division since they contain the chemicals necessary for testing. All other containers will be refused for testing. Samples will be discarded if not submitted properly.
- Call or check website for holiday schedule or emergency testing: http://www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info/pub_svcs/envwaterlab.html
What are coliform bacteria?
Coliform bacteria are organisms that are present in the environment and in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. Coliform bacteria will not likely cause illness. However, their presence in drinking water indicates that disease-causing organisms (pathogens) could be in the water system. Most pathogens that can contaminate water supplies come from the feces of humans or animals. Testing drinking water for all possible pathogens is complex, time-consuming, and expensive. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to test for coliform bacteria. If coliform bacteria are found in a water sample, water system operators work to find the source of contamination and restore safe drinking water. There are three different groups of coliform bacteria; each has a different level of risk.
Total coliform, fecal coliform, and E. coli
Total coliform, fecal coliform, and E. coli are all indicators of drinking water quality. The total coliform group is a large collection of different kinds of bacteria. Fecal coliforms are types of total coliform that mostly exist in feces. E. coli is a sub-group of fecal coliform. When a water sample is sent to a lab, it is tested for total coliform. If total coliform is present, the sample will also be tested for either fecal coliform or E. coli, depending on the lab testing method.
Total coliform bacteria are commonly found in the environment (e.g., soil or vegetation) and are generally harmless. If only total coliform bacteria are detected in drinking water, the source is probably environmental. Fecal contamination is not likely. However, if environmental contamination can enter the system, there may also be a way for pathogens to enter the system. Therefore, it is important to find the source and resolve the problem.
Fecal coliform bacteria are a sub-group of total coliform bacteria. They appear in great quantities in the intestines and feces of people and animals. The presence of fecal coliform in a drinking water sample often indicates recent fecal contamination » meaning that there is a greater risk that pathogens are present than if only total coliform bacteria is detected.
E. coli is a sub-group of the fecal coliform group. Most E. coli bacteria are harmless and are found in great quantities in the intestines of people and warm-blooded animals. Some strains, however, can cause illness. The presence of E. coli in a drinking water sample almost always indicates recent fecal contamination » meaning there is a greater risk that pathogens are present.
A note about E. coli: E. coli outbreaks receive much media coverage. Most outbreaks have been caused by a specific strain of E. coli bacteria known as E. coli O157:H7. When a drinking water sample is reported as "E. coli present" it does not mean that this dangerous strain is present and in fact, it is probably not present. However, it does indicate recent fecal contamination. Boiling or treating contaminated drinking water with a disinfectant destroys all forms of E. coli, including O157:H7.