The primary function of the City’s water quality labs is to provide city staff and citizens with the high quality data they need to ensure the safety of the water supply, make informed decisions, and maintain regulatory compliance for drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, environmental resources, and air quality.
The lab is accredited by the Washington Department of Ecology to perform analyses under the regulations administered by the state of Washington and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Laboratory staff are experienced in a wide range of sampling and testing methods. Each laboratory analyst has at minimum a four-year degree in the sciences, and all staff members have years of experience with laboratory and field testing in government and private sector laboratories.
All testing is done using approved methods of analysis. Procedures are documented through Standard Operating Procedures and the Laboratory’s Quality Assurance Plan. Our laboratory is open to state inspectors who review the methods, data and the qualifications of the staff. The laboratory participates in national performance evaluation studies, where the results on an unknown sample are matched up against water quality labs from all over the country.
Laboratory and treatment plant staff work seven days a week. State requirements are such that the drinking water must be tested every day. For water quality questions or concerns call (360) 778-7870.
Common Drinking Water Quality Measurements
Tap water in the U.S.A. is regulated by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Washington also has administrative code for drinking water treatment, quality and sampling under the purview of the Washington State Department of Health. Frequent and thorough testing is required to maintain the highest standards of drinking water quality.
- Table of common drinking water quality parameters (PDF)
- Lead and Copper Rule Corrosion Control Optimization Study (PDF)
While staff tests the water every day, customer feedback is welcome. Water Quality Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) may help answer common drinking water questions:
When customers call the lab with a request or complaint about their drinking water there are several questions the laboratory staff may ask in order to determine what actions are needed:
- Detail of problem. If it is an off-taste or odor, describe the taste
- Duration of the problem
- Noticeable in both the hot and cold water
- Noticeable at all water taps inside and outside
- Are neighboring households experiencing the same problem?
- Are there water treatment devices in the home?
- Has there been a long period of non-use?
- What is the temperature setting on the water heater?
The City is responsible for water quality only to the point where it enters the property. From the property line throughout the home, apartment or office, water quality can be affected by internal plumbing. If the problem is inside the home and not at neighboring houses, customers are still encouraged to contact the water quality lab for help troubleshooting the source of the problem.
The Quality of Bellingham’s Drinking Water
The Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) is a requirement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Consumer Confidence Report details the substances detected in the City’s drinking water. The CCR is mailed to Bellingham water customers every year in June. Staff attempts to make this report understandable, however, drinking water quality information is complex and often technical. Customers with questions are urged to contact the laboratory for assistance.
Bellingham’s water is tested regularly for contaminants. If harmful substances are ever found, the drinking water staff is required to report this problem to the public within 24 hours.
Contaminants of Emerging Concern
Some chemicals are a prominent topic of concern in today’s health and regulatory conversations, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often referred to as “forever chemicals.” Learn more about the City’s proactive monitoring of these chemicals in drinking water on the Contaminants of Emerging Concern page.
Keeping Your Drinking Water Safe
Our customers can play a vital role in making sure water reservoirs and pump stations located throughout the city remain safe by calling (360) 778-7700 (anytime even after business hours) to report suspicious activities around our water distribution system components. Be prepared to provide details including license plate numbers and descriptions of any individuals observed.