The Sanborn Sun April - May 2000
Testing the Water
Article By Jessie R.
Web Site By James K.

     When you take a cool, refreshing sip of water, do you know what you are drinking?  You could be ingesting microscopic animals, harmful amounts of fluoride, or pesticides. Thanks to Mrs. Jennifer Fee and Compliance Designs, every time you open a bottle of water, you can enjoy its natural refreshment without worrying.

     Compliance Designs is a consulting firm that helps bottled water companies stay in compliance with state and federal water regulations. Fee has worked for Compliance Designs for many years. She works as a technological director arranging for bottled water companies like Poland Springs to send their water samples to labs that will perform the appropriate water tests to meet regulations in the states where they plan to sell their products. At the lab, scientists will test the water for many factors. They make sure the microbacterial levels are low. Most bacteria is only harmful except after rainfall. They also test for other things that can be harmful: herbicides and pesticides from runoff, MTBE (an additive used in gas), nitrate, and large amounts of fluoride among other things. 

     "Most companies do a pretty good job regulating themselves,"  the soft spoken Fee said. 

     But when they don’t, state and federal governments are there to make sure  our  drinking  water is safe. Some states, like California and New York, have stringent and comprehnsive rules regarding safe bottled water. Other states have permitting  processes companies have to go through before they can sell in that state. New Hampshire and many of the New England states have these permitting processes. Some states in Midwest have no permitting processes at all.  In these states companies have to comply with federal regulations. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the finished project while the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the sources water companies use.

    What are all these regulations for? We asked  Fee if bottled water which you pay money for is better for you than plain old tap water.  She explained that in most cases tap water is just as safe as bottled water. In cities where houses get water from a municipal supply, the water source is tested every hour. Before new houses can be sold, they are required to have a small water test that searches for anything that can be very harmful. They don’t test for many things that aren’t good for you, however, like herbicides, pesticides, and MTBE, all things that can not be tasted either. If you drink bottled water you kow that the water is being tested from year to year.

     "Most people drink bottled water, because they don’t like the smell and taste of city water which is treated with chlorine," Fee explained. "They don’t realize that other beverages like soda are not as heavily regulated by individual states and the FDA."

     Interestingly enough, companies like Compliance Designs exist because of people’s interest in the environment and healthy foods and beverages. Fee, who once worked for a water testing company, developed the concept for Compliance Designs with some co-workers, recognizing that many bottled water companies need  help organizing testing for their products.  The tests required by each state vary. With the help of Compliance Designs, bottled water companies keep the public healthy.