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Environment / Sustainability

Laboratory ensures water quality on campus

February 16, 2010

You use water all the time, but do you ever think of how many steps are there between the point when it leaves the river until it finally comes out of your faucet?

The green spots indicate the presence of coliforms in the water sample on the right.

21 sites tested each month

Although Coloradans are lucky to have excellent water by nature, there is great effort involved in making it drinkable. Nonetheless, the next time you take a sip of water from the drinking fountain you can rest assured – the Department of Environmental Health Services has got your back.

To assure good water quality on campus, CSU's  Environmental Quality Laboratory, part of EHS, works closely with Facilities and Public Health sampling for coliforms, lead, and copper in 21 designated sites and all pools on campus, every month. The process involves testing the temperature and presence of chlorine (ideally ca. 0.2 mg/ml), analyzing the sample to look for pathogens using a minimal amount of chemicals, and finally reporting to the state.

"We use E. coli as a control, because if you find this type of bacteria, you are more than likely going to encounter other types of pathogens. They all like to hang out in the same places", says Rommy Vera-Tudela, lab manager."

Lab tests food quality at residence halls

The lab also provides services to residence halls (testing for food quality), and participate in a variety of outside contracts, which amount to up to 70 percent of the lab’s funding. These include clients such as Hawk, Kodak, and private residential wells in Fort Collins, Windsor, Loveland and Greeley.

The lab is ultimately responsible for checking the water quality in the city of Fort Collins -- samples are collected from the Poudre River eight times a year, and on the Thompson River, once a year. The work includes sampling the water as well as taking a close look at the local fauna such as bugs and fish, which according to Vera-Tudela, “give a great idea of the water quality”.

What is in your water before it is treated?

  • Microbial contaminants: Viruses and bacteria may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, and wildlife.
  • Inorganic contaminants: Salts and metals may be naturally occurring or result from urban storm water runoff, industrial or domestic waste water discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming.
  • Pesticides and herbicides: These may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban storm water runoff and residential uses.
  • Organic chemical contaminants: These include synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, and also may come from gas stations, urban storm water runoff, and septic systems.
  • Radioactive contaminants: These may be naturally occurring or the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.

Read more articles in the EHS Newsletter.

Contact: Fernanda Dore
Phone: (970) 491-4835