Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Independent Water Testing and Baseline Groundwater Testing State Certified Laboratories in Northeastern Pennsylvania - Columbia, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming

The following is a short listing of state or national certified testing laboratories in our region. If you want you can find in this blog a listing of all of the laboratories in the state.

First of all what is baseline testing and some details.

Because of the specifics concerns with respect to the Marcellus Shale, the citizens are recognizing the importance of documenting the baseline quality of their drinking water and recreational water sources. The primary concern is that many professionals are recommending baseline analysis that either provide a very broad range of parameters that are not specific enough to target the Marcellus Shale or a baseline analysis that targets only the potential impacts related to the develop of natural gas and in some cases there are companies with very little experience in environmental consulting.

From the citizens perspective - It is my professional opinion, the baseline analysis needs to take into consideration the following:
a. The existing geological conditions that may affect water quality for the region or area.

b. The existing land-use or activities occurring within the recharge zone for the well or spring or watershed area for the surfacewater resource.

c. Potential sources of contaminants from proposed developments that target the various phases of the development, i.e., drilling / drilling muds, intermixing of freshwater with saline and brine water, interception of shallow gas deposits, and management of the drilling pad.

d. The existing quality of your water and type of water source.

Of these 4 items, I believe that if the professional you are considering hiring does not ask you questions about your well and your current water quality you will not be establishing an affective baseline. In addition, the professional providing this information should not be just reading off a list of recommendations by some third party, but have solid understanding of earth sciences, hydrology, well drilling, and groundwater. Remember - you are establishing a "legal" baseline that may need to address a multitude of issues not just Marcellus Shale Drilling or Hydrofracing.

Establishing a baseline - the following questions should be asked and used in the decision making process.
1. Where are you located and What is the type of water source?

2. If it is a well, what is the depth of the well, static water level, and depth of casing?

3. Does the water system have an existing treatment system? If yes, why?

4. Does the water quality change when there is a heavy rain or snow melt?

5. Has it been tested in the past?

6. Are there any problems or issues? Such as: discolored water, metallic taste, turbidity, staining, blue-green staining, etc

7. This water source supports what type of use? Single-family home, house and small farm, etc.

8. What is the size of your parcel?

9. What is the existing and past use of your parcel?

10. What is the land-use surrounding and upgradient of this source?
If the person conducting your baseline analysis - is not asking you these questions - he/she may not be providing you the help you need.

Before we get into more detail - I you do not contact a certified laboratory for guidance - then at least call a professional.  This should be a licensed water or wastewater operator or other licensed professional in the state.  There are many persons making a lot of claims, but what is there experience in the profession, do not hirer someone that basically has not professional background in the subject.  Personally - I have had retired or displaced nurserys, salesman, and many others ask me to train.  This is not appropriate and will cause you to make a bad decision.

I read on other sites that there are 4 componets to a legally defensible baseline water test.  Here they are:

1. The test must be conducted by an independent 3rd party.
2. Training and protocols must be in place
3. There must be an identifiable chain of custody
4. The test must be conducted by a Pennsylvania State Certified Laboratory.

Guess What ?
These are wrong!
This is the right concept.

To adequately meet your needs - you must establish a baseline that does the following:

1. Addresses the existing condition of the groundwater source including volume and quality based on the existing or proposed usage and surrounding conditions.  Therefore, a person with a quarry near their home and a spring - may need a different set a parameters than a person living in the middle of a 100+ acre forest.
(Pick the right parameters that meet YOUR budget, YOUR Need, and relates to YOUR situation - One package does not fit ALL).

2. Characterize your well - static and dynamic water level- measure flow or rate - calculate specific capacity.

3. Work with a "certified laboratory" using their technician or a technician that they approve or authorize.

4. The laboratory could be PADEP approve or Nationally Accredited and the laboratory must be certified for the specific methods or process your sample in cooperation with another laboratory that is certified for the necessary methods.

You can contact me at
Over 20 years experience in geology, hydrology, and water quality related issues in Northeastern PA; expert witness, licensed water well driller, soil scientist, and much more.

The State Certified Laboratories that serve Northeastern PA are (partial list):
Aqua-Tech Lab, Mountaintop, PA 868-5346
Benchmark Analytical, East Stroudsburg, PA, 421-5122
Kirby Health Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA 822-4278
Friend Lab Inc., Waverly, NY, 607-565-2893
Northeastern Environmental Labs, Scranton, PA, 348-0775
Quantum Labs in Dickson City, PA 570-489-6964
Hawk Mountain Labs 570-455-6011 (Hazle Township, PA)
Seewald Laboratories 570.326.4001 ( Williamsport, PA)
(always willing to update)

Do not be fooled - there are a number of "lab" websites.  When you look deep enough- these are actually just collectors with little expertise in groundwater, water chemistry, and are not likely worth the money.


  1. There is no such this as a certified water sampler or tester in PA. The certified laboratory is the gate keeper.

  2. One thing that I have learned from my wastewater treatment training that we cannot really just rely on technology to make sure that we have safe water every where. We ALL have to participate in making sure that pollution does not endanger our waters and that there will be enough water for the future generation.

  3. Water testing and treatment is a highly important part of life. We need to know what kind of water we are dealing with. The importance of it is emphasised by fields such as drinking water where, cliched as it may sound you cannot put a price on it. This ethos can be applied to any type of water testing, as water carries such potentially harmful factors, necessitating such equipment.