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  • James Howey

To trust the test, or not to trust the test: that is the question

Many water providers have set up or are considering setting up the ability to undertake microbiological testing in-house (e.g. for total coliforms and E. coli). Regulatory requirements specify frequent microbiological testing of every water supply.

Due to logistical challenges and subsequent issues with sample holding times (especially in regional and remote areas), an in-house solution is at times a necessity. However, for the test results to be deemed suitable for making decisions, there must be demonstrable rigour in the processes of sampling, testing and data management.

Data obtained from tests are often used for making decisions.

These decisions could be:

  • of financial significance

  • used for improving community health and safety and the environment

  • related to regulatory compliance and legal matters.

Microbiological testing is very sensitive and although there are onsite kits which can be easily used, it still requires an appropriate quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) program to be established and implemented. A QA/QC program ensures that the testing data produced in-house is of high quality, that is, accurate, reliable and adequate for the intended purpose. In addition, the QA/QC program directly supports the effective implementation of the utility’s Drinking Water Quality Management Plan/System.

QA includes all the activities undertaken by a laboratory to ensure that reliable and accurate testing or measurement will be undertaken at all times. QC on the other hand includes those activities that are undertaken to confirm that test and measurement results are accurate and reliable. QC checks are what a laboratory does to ensure that its overall QA program is working.

It will be very useful to undertake an assessment of your in-house testing laboratory against appropriate QA/QC requirements and strengthen it, if needed.

Feel free to have a chat with us.

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