Results of our potable water test

Many of you will remember that a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how to test your water.

Well, since that time, several of you have called, many of you are in the process of testing your water, and the president of the Green Lake Cottagers’ Association has asked permission to reprint excerpts of that column for his newsletter.

In other words, it’s a hot topic.

I promised to tell you the results of our water test when it came in from Micro-B lab in Hull. Today, Monday June 19, Eric and I went into the lab where we enjoyed a twenty-minute interview with Bartosz Skora, son of the owners who is now working there on a full-time basis. Here’s the results of our two tests in the form of an interview.


KF: The first test, the coliform test, tests for fecal coliform such as e-coli plus what’s called “total coliform.” What is the difference?

“‘Fecal coliform’ is self-explanatory,” he said candidly. “But ‘total coliform’ refers to the organic bacteria that get into the drinking water naturally from leaves, earth or rainwater.”

KF: How much is this test, how often should it be done by the householder, and how long does it take for results to be known?

BS: The cost is $35.70 (includes taxes). If people have a dug well, they only need to test once a year. But if their source of water is a surface creek or something like that, they really ought to do it twice annually: once in spring, then in late summer.

KF: What is the ICP test, how often should it be done by the householder, and how long does it take for results to be known?

BS: The ICP tests for 26 minerals plus hardness in the water and takes up to two weeks. People should do this once in the lifetime of living at their home. It is unlikely that the results would change unless their source of water becomes contaminated by such events as nearby blasting or construction.

ICP tests for sodium, barium, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, aluminium, beryllium, cobalt, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, silver, strontium, sulfur, thallium, titanium, vanadium, tin, and finally, indicates the hardness of the water.

KF: What does the ICP test cost?

BS:The cost is $92.02 (includes taxes).

KF: Were there any problems with our water?

BS: The only two results that indicate the presence of anything above the norm were for manganese and water hardness. Manganese results were ten times the normal limit.

KF: What do we do about that? Is it dangerous?

BS: Not at all. Increased level of manganese are not considered health hazards but it will stain your laundry! You could use a filter... but that introduces potential other problems.

KF: Gee... now we know why some of Eric’s dress shirts have been ruined by yellow-brown stains over the years. But should we filter our water?

BS: It’s up to you but we don’t recommend it. You can introduce other organisms or salts when you try to filter or soften your hard water. If you can, just live with it.

KF: We’ll do that. Does Micro-B lab share its test results with the government of Québec so that they develop a profile of the health of the province’s water?

BS: No. We are one of two private labs in the region. By law we are not forced to show results, but if the government specifically wanted to see the results of a particular site, we do this for them. We have to keep test results for three years.

KF: Why do we have to pay for water tests? In Ontario they appear to be free.

BS: I think the tests were free in Québec about twenty years ago. Now they are not.

KF: Has the Walkerton E-coli scare affected your business.

BS: Yes! I am normally a part time help to my father who is the President of Micro-B and my mother, who is the microbiologiste. A real family business! Now, after Walkerton, people are really waking up to water being a potential health risk, and now we’re doing 97 samples in a day compared to our usual rate of between 30-40 tests. I’ve been full time for three weeks!

KF: May we keep the test results?

BS: Yes, everyone receives their own copy of our lab test results.


To test your water, contact Micro-B enr., 184 chemin Freeman, Hull, J8Z 2B5. Telephone: 819-778-0020; Fax: 819-778-0659. Lab business hours are Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 16:30. But be absolutely sure to ask about the time frame for receiving samples (no sample can be accepted on Fridays). Also, be very clear on how to procure samples using their bottles (and don’t wash, or otherwise tamper with the bottles, which contain a solution critical to the lab test). Micro-B enr., is a bilingual enterprise serving you in the language of your choice, and information sheets are available in both languages, too.


Cool water websites: for those of you linked to the Internet, check out these sites for sound information on water:

The second site is the US Environmental Protection Agency. It shows potential health risks of many of the 26 inorganic chemicals that the Micro-B lab tests for. Examples include:

“Copper: health problems are short term exposure: Gastrointestinal distress; long term exposure: liver or kidney damage. ... Thallium: hair loss, changes in blood, kidney, intestine, or liver problems.”

The comprehensive EPA site also indicates problems associated with organic chemicals.


I was unable to attend the Tony Beck bird walk up at Leslie Lake, but I spent the evening with Tony and some of the walk’s 14 participants up at Northfork Inn on Saturday night. Tony commented, “We saw many interesting species but the tragedy is that no herons are living in the heronry this year. The nests are all there but they are all empty.”

He was at a loss to explain the reason. We have not seen a great blue heron here at our pond yet but have seen one at Moffatt Lake.

Does anyone have any reports of “missing” herons? Are there fewer than usual this year, in your experience?


Keep your questions coming... and your answers. Thanks for all your calls and e-mails, everyone! I guess you are all avid gardeners: you’ve left many questions, tips and comments with me and so next week’s topic will be our gardens.


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based north of Quyon. Contact her at