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Aqua PA Water Testing Lab Breaks Ground In Bryn Mawr

Patch logo Patch 3/9/2020 Max Bennett
a group of people posing for the camera: Essential and Aqua employees celebrate groundbreaking in Bryn Mawr. © Gary Horn/Aqua Pennsylvania Essential and Aqua employees celebrate groundbreaking in Bryn Mawr.

BRYN MAWR, PA — Ground broke on a new water quality lab in Bryn Mawr Friday as part of Aqua Pennsylvania's continuing effort to protect the public health and ensure high-quality water.

Aqua PA representatives, along with Essential Utilities Inc., Department of Environmental Protection, state and regional elected officials, and contractors broke ground on the site of Aqua’s new water quality laboratory Friday.

The lab will be a brand new, state-of-the-art facility at the company’s Bryn Mawr headquarters.

The new two-story building, at 14,700 square feet, will more than double the size of the current 6,400 square foot laboratory that has served the company for more than 60 years.

Aqua’s new lab is expected to be completed and in operation by the spring of 2021.

Aqua’s laboratory is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and four other state environmental and health regulatory agencies. The lab employs a professional staff of 20 microbiologists and chemists who perform 300,000 tests on 30,000 water samples each year. These scientists use 50 different analytical methods for 240 different water quality parameters.

The investment in the new laboratory is required to maintain pace with the advancement of science. Regulated contaminants for drinking water jumped from 23 in the 1970s to 90 by 2000.

In addition, as Aqua continues to add more and more customers and systems through acquisition, the ability for the laboratory capacity needs to keep pace.

On Feb. 27, Essential announced a proactive step in standardizing its activities to address the presence of the contaminants Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), which are part of the PFAS family of chemicals, in drinking water across the eight-state Aqua footprint.

Aqua’s current laboratory is one of two laboratories accredited and the only utility certified to test for PFAS in Pennsylvania. Aqua added PFAS testing capability in 2016 in response to the emerging concerns about this family of contaminants and in 2019 Aqua committed to testing every one of its nearly 1,500 water sources to understand exactly where PFAS exists.

Aqua’s lab and analytical expertise enabled this commitment and the new lab will continue this extended capability.

Beginning in 2020, Essential will make the necessary capital investment in the range of tens of millions of dollars over several years to install mitigation technology at water treatment facilities where source water exceeds 13 parts per trillion (ppt) for any of the three PFAS chemicals.

PFAS are a concern in communities across the country where water is believed to have been contaminated by nearby military bases or other causes. Setting a company-wide standard of 13 ppt will enable Essential to address the contaminant uniformly across its eight-state footprint.

Setting a company-wide standard of 13 ppt will enable Essential to address the contaminant uniformly across its footprint, which includes nearly 1,500 water systems in eight states. Currently, the EPA’s PFAS non-enforceable health advisory level is 70 ppt. Although the EPA announced last week it will move to set an enforceable standard around PFOA and PFOS in the future, that federal standard is a few years away.

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