How to pick a water testing lab for stormwater or process water sampling.

Written By: Chris Ruhlin | Apr 12, 2018

Time to Read 8 Minutes

Learn why the right water testing lab for stormwater or process wastewater matters!

In today's age, running a business comes with a lot of responsibilities. One thing we see tightening up more and more, whether it's pressure from 3rd party environmental groups or government regulators, is your environmental responsibilities. Just about anyone across this country that owns or operates any type of industrial facility has probably heard of NPDES stormwater permits. If you haven’t heard of them, read What are NPDES stormwater permits?

One of the most critical requirements under these permits is sampling and analyzing the water that leaves your site, whether it's stormwater or process water. Either way, we know this can be a tedious task. Waiting for it to rain, stopping what you’re doing (which is usually running your business), going out and getting a sample of the discharge, and sending it off to a lab (which costs money), hoping the results come back good enough to comply to the regulations. Lots to do!

But it's that second to last point that trips up a lot of people. How do you go about getting your stormwater or process water tested? Simply put, where and how do you pick a water testing lab for stormwater or process water sampling?

Learn how to pick the best water testing lab for stormwater or process water sampling.

Why does picking a lab matter? For many reasons. For example, if you choose the wrong water testing lab, your samples could be incorrectly tested giving you bad results, it could cost you more money (and time) than you should spend, or even could wind up causing you to be in violation of your permit!

So how do you go about picking the right water testing lab?

The answer is simple. In almost every case the only place that can test your water samples for compliance with an NPDES permit is a state-certified (or registered, approved, etc.) water testing lab. Any place other than that is unacceptable and is a waste of your money.

That answer is usually enough to get our clients on the right path towards finding a lab, but if you’re still unsure about how to choose a lab, the tips below will help you narrow down the perfect water testing lab to fit your operation.

Water Testing Lab

Is the water testing lab a state-certified lab?

First and foremost, is the water testing lab a legitimate, capable, and professional water testing lab? As I said, anything short of that is a waste of your time and money and is unacceptable for use.

You might think this is a hard question to answer, but you’d know after looking at the state's certified laboratory listing (usually found on the internet), talking with the lab on the phone, visiting them in person, or reading reviews online.

If your permit says samples must be analyzed by a state-certified water testing lab and you’re just not sure if they meet that requirement, ask them! If they are, then they’ll answer that question with confidence. If they aren’t, you’d know by how they answer that question.

If they are truly a certified lab, keep reading on, if not, keep searching.

Does this particular water testing lab test for what you need?

The second most important question to answer is if the lab tests for the pollutant parameters you need to monitor for. Very simply, if you need to have X, Y, and Z analyzed (different pollutant parameters), then ask them if they test for X, Y, and Z!

If they say yes, you’re on the right track, if they say no, keep looking for another lab.

Some labs, normally depending on their size, may or may not test for every parameter. Certain pollutant parameters require large, expensive machinery for testing that a particular lab may not have, so not every lab tests for everything. Finding one lab that does the specific tests you need will make things much easier for you since you'll only have to deal with one lab, instead of several.

How helpful is the water testing lab?

This means things such as, what additional services do they offer that could make your sampling job easier? Such as do they pick up samples, is it possible they can do the sampling for you, or will they provide you with all necessary sampling bottles and equipment?

Or what is their customer service like? Will you be a valued customer? Will they pay proper attention to getting your samples done on time, and how quickly? What is their turnaround time on results?

All these issues would most likely be determined after doing business with a lab for some time, but if you can get a sense of how they run their business right off the bat, it may make you think twice about doing business with them.

What kind of vibe do you get from the lab?

It might seem odd, but think of what kind of vibe do you get from them.

Some people might not think this is important but given the fact that there are water testing labs all over the place, you're probably going to have the option to pick one that you like.

You may know them personally, you might like their website, or maybe you've just used them in the past with successful results.

Plain and simple, you’re going to start a professional business relationship with them, so make this as pleasant as possible by hitching your wagon to someone you would like to do business with right off the bat. If you see storm clouds in the distance, keep looking for a different lab.

Where is the water testing lab located?

There are water testing labs located all over the place, usually with a few in each county or city. In fact, if you do a quick Google search for water testing lab near me there are probably several located close to you right now!

With that in mind, is the lab of your choice conveniently located for your needs? That could mean across the street, across town, on the way home from work, etc. You don’t want to use a lab that is hard to get to or out of the way for whoever has to drop the water samples off. Unless your operation is in a remote area, chances are pretty good there’s a closer and more convenient lab location.

How expensive is the lab?

Price shouldn’t be your first concern. Having your samples analyzed correctly and professionally by a legitimate lab should be your first concern, not price alone. If price is something that would still help you determine which lab to choose, then comparing prices among different labs might be helpful.

Labs are typically a private company and there are lots of them, so you may be able to look around and find the price that works for you.

Testing for pollutant parameters at labs can get expensive, so shop around and compare prices at different labs. Remember, you want this done correctly, professionally, and by a state-certified laboratory.

How to Pick a Water Testing Lab Infographic

All said and done, if you go through the steps above in choosing a water testing lab, chances are you are going to find one that fits perfectly into your needs. If you still need help, check out this infographic that breaks down the key points into a visual representation.

If you still need more help with regards to finding a water testing laboratory for analyzing and testing stormwater and process water samples, it's probably best to contact an expert.

Need help with stormwater permit compliance?

For a lot of folks out there, this is a pain to deal with. After all, you have a business to run! If you're overwhelmed, you're not alone. RMA has been actively involved in helping companies get and stay in compliance with stormwater permits across the United States since our founding in 1992. Long story short, we know the ins and outs of the environmental problems industrial and commercial facilities face and can help you get into compliance with stormwater permits and other applicable environmental laws and regulations, ensuring your business stays out of trouble and in compliance.

Our staff members have been on-site at thousands of operations across the country, so when we say we've seen it all and done it all, we mean it. We've helped everyone, from globe-spanning, multi-national organizations to small "mom & pop" operations. No matter your size or location, we'd love to learn how we can help.

So, if you're having any type of issue at your facility and need the help of an environmental consulting firm with a proven track record, reach out. Even if we can't help, we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction. Feel free to contact us at, click here to contact us, or give us a call anytime at 888-RMA-0230 to learn how we can help your facility deal with stormwater permits and other environmental regulations.

Additional Information on Stormwater Permits

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