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La Verne’s Water: Is It Safe?

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by Emily Lau
photography by Taylor Bolanos

After hearing about the possibility that La Verne’s water is contaminated with lead, I could not help but wonder: how safe is La Verne’s drinking water? Determined for answers, I decided to find out for myself. First, I needed to find a reliable and trusted method to test the water. My research led me to use KAR Laboratories’ “H2OAssure” drinking water test kit. KAR Laboratories is a U.S. EPA-certified environmental lab located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which specializes in tests and analyses including water, acids and air toxins. The kit was purchased through the lab’s website and was shipped to me in three days. Everything I needed was in the kit – instructions, three plastic test tubes and even a return shipping envelope.

My photographer and I discussed possible testing locations around La Verne and eventually settled on the water fountain in Leo Park on the corner of Arrow Highway and D Street. Before collecting samples, I let the water run for five minutes to flush the water of any possible contaminants. Then, I slowly filled the three tubes with water. After tightly sealing the caps, I carefully placed the tubes in a plastic bag and then sealed them in the return shipping envelope.

What would the results say about La Verne’s water? In a week, I received an email from KAR Laboratories with the water test results. The kit included 90 tests, everything from the least harmful minerals to dangerous chemicals. The analysis featured the name of the test, the result and the initials of the analyst. “If you have one that has maximum contaminant levels, you look at your results and look at the level. For instance, for nitrates, you can go up to 10 milligrams per liter. Anything over that is unsafe. If it’s not, then you know it’s safe,” says Sandy Mertz, KAR Laboratories representative. For the record, La Verne’s nitrate level is safe, at 5.3 milligrams per liter. The maximum allowable limit is 10 milligrams per liter, according to the KAR Laboratories test.

But what I – and probably most people – am most concerned about is the lead level. Does La Verne’s water exceed the allowed amount? The maximum contaminant level for lead in water is 0.015 milligrams per liter. The results show less than 0.001 milligrams per liter was found. “Results with a less than sign in it means ‘none found,’” Mertz says. While the water did not contain traces of lead, there were some tests that showed higher amounts than average. The sample tested 54.1 milligrams per liter of sodium while the maximum contaminant level is 20 milligrams per liter. According to the analysis, sodium is a common ion found in water, and water softeners often increase the amount. This is no shock, though, as La Verne’s water was also classified as “hard” in the hardness test. According to the analysis, water that tests 7.1-10.5 grains per gallon is considered hard water; La Verne’s water came back as 9.2 grains per gallon. Of course, those who find their faucets and galvanized pipes scaling up already know this fact.

The other tests, including bacteria, iron, copper, chloride and sulfate, returned with acceptable amounts. The KAR Laboratories test collaborates very closely with the published city of La Verne annual water test results. According to the 2015 water quality report, residential taps did not have any traces of contaminants such as bacteria and copper. No organic chemicals were detected, and inorganic chemicals such as nitrates and fluoride fell within the maximum contaminant levels.

With these self-test results, it is safe to say that La Verne’s water does not currently have high levels of lead and is suitable for me to drink—maybe even straight from the public drinking fountain. “All I can say is the water is safe for the tests we run,” Mertz says.

1   KAR Laboratories’ drinking water test kit contains four tubes to collect samples from a single water source. The environmental lab is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan and provides people with a choice of different quality tests. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

1 KAR Laboratories’ drinking water test kit contains four tubes to collect samples from a single water source. The environmental lab is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan and provides people with a choice of different quality tests. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

2   After running the drinking fountain for five minutes, La Verne Magazine writer Emily Lau fills the three tubes with water. The public fountain is located in Leo Park, next to the railroad tracks and new parking structure at the University of La Verne. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

2 After running the drinking fountain for five minutes, La Verne Magazine writer Emily Lau fills the three tubes with water. The public fountain is located in Leo Park, next to the railroad tracks and new parking structure at the University of La Verne. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

3  Carefully closing the final tube, La Verne Magazine writer Emily Lau makes sure the cap is sealed tightly (without setting down or touching the inside of the red cap). The tube contains nutrients users must protect from contamination. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

3 Carefully closing the final tube, La Verne Magazine writer Emily Lau makes sure the cap is sealed tightly (without setting down or touching the inside of the red cap). The tube contains nutrients users must protect from contamination. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

4   When the tubes are filled, La Verne Magazine writer Emily Lau places them in the plastic bag  provided with the kit. The tubes are then mailed  back to KAR Laboratories for analysis. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

4 When the tubes are filled, La Verne Magazine writer Emily Lau places them in the plastic bag provided with the kit. The tubes are then mailed back to KAR Laboratories for analysis. / photo by Taylor Bolanos

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