Drinking Water Testing – Official Agencies

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

Total coliform and E. coli; HPC upon request

Drinking water

200 mL (to the fill line on the bottle)

PHOL water collection bottle

Submission and Collection Notes

1

Drinking water submitted by an Official Agency (i.e., public health unit or Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Ontario Park).

2

For bottled water, the water can be aseptically decanted into a PHOL collection bottle or submitted in the original packaging as long as the seal is broken. Sealed bottled water products are not accepted. Contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency if analysis of a sealed bottled water product is required.

3

Complete the required information on the requisition. The sample will not be tested if all of the required information is not complete or accurate when received at the laboratory.

4

Remove one of the barcodes on the bottle and apply it to the top copy of the requisition in the “Barcode” field.

5

Remove a second barcode and apply it in the corresponding location on the second copy of the form.  Samples will not be processed if the barcodes are not affixed to the top copy of the requisition. If the barcode is not able to be removed, write the barcode number on the form

6
7

For bottled water, the water can be aseptically decanted into a PHOL collection bottle or submitted in the original packaging as long as the seal is broken. Sealed bottled water products are not accepted. Contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency if analysis of a sealed bottled water product is required.

Timing of Specimen Collection

Ensure adequate time to collect and transport the sample to the laboratory. It must be tested within 48 hours of collection.

Limitations

Samples will not be tested if the acceptance criteria are not met. Refer to the Public Health Inspector’s Guide to Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Testing.

Preparation Prior to Transport

Retain a copy of the completed requisition that includes the barcodes.

Specimens should be stored at 2-8 °C following collection and shipped to PHOL inside insulated containers or in a cooler.  Pack with frozen ice packs.  Samples received at the laboratory above 25 °C will not be tested.  Do not freeze samples.  

Special Instructions

All drinking water must be tested within 48 hours of collection for the results to be suitable for the purposes of the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002.

This test is only offered for approved Official Agency clients (i.e., public health unit or Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Ontario Park).  Instructions For Official Agencies Submitting Water Samples to the Public Health Ontario Laboratory provides step by step instructions for completing the documentation and submitting/relinquishing the sample. 

Please contact the PHOL Customer Service Centre prior to the submission of samples that will be received outside of regular operating hours. Samples of an urgent nature (e.g. STAT) will be processed and read with no undue delay).

For legal samples or samples submitted under Ontario drinking water regulation O. Reg. 170/03 or O. Reg. 319/08, the chain of custody must be complete when the sample is received at the laboratory (Refer to Instructions For Official Agencies Submitting Water Samples to the Public Health Ontario Laboratory).

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

Samples are routinely accepted and tested at the laboratory Monday – Friday during regular operating hours. Please contact the PHO Laboratory Customer Service Centre prior to the submission of samples that will be received outside of these hours.

The turnaround time (TAT) is up to 4 days for Total Coliform and E. coli, up to 5 days for HPC and P. aeruginosa and up to 6 days for S. aureus.

STAT samples must be identified with “STAT” on the requisition.

Reporting

 

Results are reported to the submitter as indicated on the requisition. Drinking water submitted under an Ontario drinking water regulation is reported as per the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002.

Test Methods

Drinking water samples are tested by the Membrane Filtration method modified from MECP E3407:  Membrane Filtration Method Using DC Agar for the Simultaneous Detection and Enumeration of Total Coliforms and Escherichia coli in Drinking Water for the microbiological indicators total coliform and Escherichia coli (E. coli) and when requested, the Heterotrophic Plate Count (HPC) is tested by the Spread Plate method modified from MECP E3408: The Spread Plate Method for the Enumeration of Aerobic, Heterotrophic Bacteria in Drinking Water (for distribution system samples or other treated water only).

Bottled water is tested by Membrane Filtration for the microbiological indicators:

Total Coliform, Escherichia coli (E. coli) (method modified from MECP E3407:  Membrane Filtration Method Using DC Agar for the Simultaneous Detection and Enumeration of Total Coliforms and Escherichia coli in Drinking Water), 

Staphylococcus species (including S. aureus) (method modified from Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater 9213B) and 

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (method modified from Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater 9213 E). 

The Heterotrophic Plate Count (HPC) test is performed using the Spread Plate method (modified from MECP E3408: The Spread Plate Method for the Enumeration of Aerobic, Heterotrophic Bacteria in Drinking Water).

Public Health Ontario Laboratory sites hold a drinking water testing license (Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks) and drinking water tests, which are limited to the scope of testing, are accredited by the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation Inc. (CALA) to ISO 17025.

Additional Information

For samples submitted under an Ontario drinking water regulation that requires specific notification of test results as outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, the submitter must follow the instructions provided by the laboratory for:  sample labeling, chain of custody including requirements for submission, sample transport and temperature conditions, and holding time.

Refer to “Important Information Related to Drinking Water Analysis” in the Public Health Inspector’s Guide to Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Testing

For general inquiries, please contact the PHOL Customer Service Centre.

Samples are not tested for other contaminants, including chemical contaminants, and therefore may be unsafe to drink even when there is no significant evidence of bacterial contamination. 

It may be necessary to refer samples to another licensed laboratory within the PHO laboratory system for testing, other than the laboratory to which sample was initially submitted.  

For information about PHO laboratory drinking water testing licenses and accreditation click this link.

Refer to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Safe Drinking Water and Fluoride Monitoring Protocol for information related to drinking water protocols.

contact lab

Contact Laboratory Customer Service

Laboratory Services

customerservicecentre@oahpp.ca

Updated 18 March 2019