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Behind the Tap Series: Water Quality Lab

Meet the Terry R. Hicks Water Quality Control Lab staff. Environmental Compliance & Lab Manager, Michael Arnette supervises Microbiologist Melissa Hammond and Lab Analysts Stephen Howard and Meagan Lennon in their daily tasks. They’re tasked with ensuring that customers have safe, reliable, high quality drinking water.

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, EPA prescribes regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems through the Safe Drinking Water Act. Melissa is responsible for making sure that the water within our distribution system is still safe once it leaves the plant. In order to do this, Melissa collects from a master list of 450 sample sites throughout the county. The number of samples is determined by GA EPD based on the population. Each month, 180 samples are collected and tested for chlorine residual and certain bacteria.

While Melissa tests water that is already being distributed to customers, Stephen and Meagan test water throughout our three primary watersheds. They test each sample for PH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen level and turbidity (measurement of how clear water is).

“I get the opportunity to go out in the field and collect all types of biological and chemical samples to analyze its data on sophisticated equipment,” Stephen adds.

This data is linked to the quality of the drinking water we produce and can be a good indicator of an increase in taste and odor causing agents. Stephen and Meagan’s testing is one of the ways CCWA has worked to tackle any potential taste and odor issues at the source.

In addition to sampling, lab staff has a slew of other responsibilities. For example, they perform monthly checks on safety equipment as well as field and laboratory equipment to ensure that it is working correctly and of reliable for testing. They also perform courtesy checks when customers call with concerns about water quality. This is one of many ways CCWA lab staff goes a step further to ensure quality service and build trust with our customers.

When asked what they like about their job, they all mentioned enjoying working on a team. “I really like the people I work with in the Water Quality Lab.  We work well as a team, and we have a strong leader who trusts us to do our jobs” says Melissa. “I am so thankful for my awesome coworkers,” Meagan adds. “Different types of challenges occur but working as a team with the most talented of water professionals, we find a way to conquer all obstacles,” says Stephen.

“I am proud to be part of an organization that truly cares about the health of the public we serve with our drinking water,” Melissa adds. We appreciate our lab staff and their contributions to our award-winning water system. #WaterProfessionals