When taking a drink of your tap water, have you ever wondered what went into making sure that it was safe to drink?
Testing water is the job of a local water analysis laboratory in Prineville. Sherri and Clifford Miyazaki of Box R Water Analysis Laboratory have been doing this important work for 15 years.
"We test water; we test drinking water, and we test well water, and we test mostly municipalities," indicated Sherri of their business.
Box R also does wastewater testing. They work in conjunction with other well-known and established laboratories to provide their clients quality results and fast turnaround times.
"We are an analytical testing laboratory that provides drinking water, storm water and wastewater analysis in accordance with local, state and federal requirements," according to their website. "We are certified by NELAP (National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation program) Institute and ORELAP (Oregon Laboratory Accreditation Program)Â and have been testing private wells, public water utilities and other facilities since May 2007 from our sunny Prineville, Oregon location."
Their territory includes the northeast corner of Oregon from Prineville up to Biggs Junction and some in The Dalles. They then go over to Joseph and Enterprise and come down to Ontario and Nyssa and come back to Prineville, hitting Burns and Hines.
Clifford makes the route the first week of the month. He said that it is easier for him to get the samples so Sherri can run the tests.
"The locations are usually grouped together. A lot of driving the first week of the month, and then the rest of the weeks, catching up with the paperwork," he said.
Sherri indicated the route helps the small towns.
"If you are in a small town like Monument, and you have 75 people who live there, you don't have anyone available to drive a sample all the way to Prineville and back. Our route car will make a trip once per month around."
She added that they can't risk using UPS because they have to test the samples within 24-30 hours.
"By the time they get here two days later, they are not worth anything. Because they are water samples, you don't get a refund back on your shipping."
She emphasized that they have a lot of small towns like Joseph, Fossil, Monument, Enterprise and the Wallowa Lake area where they pick up the samples every month. Some of the tiny places bring their samples into a city such as Condon to be picked up, where they have a refrigerator to keep it secure until pick up.
"There is a state park out there and there is another housing development out there, and so they can bring their sample into Condon, but they can't necessarily get it all the way to Prineville. But if they can get it to Condon before the lab collection vehicle gets there, they have a refrigerator for these folks," Sherri said of the Condon location.
Clifford makes a different route each day of the first week of the month. John Day also has a refrigerator for the water test samples.
"All the people who live out there, if they need well tests for real estate, Clifford is in the area. He can either help them collect or they can collect it themselves and bring it into that refrigerator and it's secure, and then we pick it up and bring back here," Sherri added.
Sherri is on the board of directors to represent small laboratories for the Oregon Environmental Lab accreditation program. She indicated that they advocate on behalf of the smaller laboratories and recently, many must go to certified labs instead of doing their own testing. She said that it will become even more important for them to serve these small labs.
According to their website, "EPA studies show that 45 million Americans drink water that violates U.S. safety standards — 642,000 of them are Oregonians. Disease-producing agents come in many forms. Exposure to nitrate/nitrite can cause fatal Blue Baby Syndrome, and ingested metals have been linked to Alzheimer's Disease, anemia, delayed or retarded mental and physical development and cancer. Even trace quantities of metals consumed over time can cause organ failure, nervous system damage, fatigue, muscle ache and high blood pressure."
Fluoride, abundant in local ground water, can lead to permanent staining of tooth enamel and brittle bones. Boron is also commonly found in water, and excessive amounts are deadly to plants when applied to vineyards, orchards and gardens.
Sherri emphasized that one lab test requires an average nine samples of the same sample to ensure that they are in the parameters of accuracy. Every six months, they receive blank samples that look like water, and they are required to analyze them and come up with the correct answers.
"You have to pay for those, and they are really expensive, and then you have to come up with the right answer."
She said that they cannot cheat on them, and they have to ensure their lab is doing everything right.
"I like that. It gives validity to your testing results. Every six months, I go through that."
Sherri noted that prior to working in her current industry, she worked in a clinical lab setting.
"Working in an environmental lab was way harder than working in a clinical lab."
Oregon is very strict on their water quality. Every two years, Sherri noted that the State of Oregon audits their lab. There is a lot of documentation involved.
If someone is buying or selling a house with a well, it is a state regulation that a current analysis is on file for the property's well. Box R provides convenient well test kits and bottles (for any testing) and can come and collect the samples, or the participant may collect them and bring them back to the Box R office.
"It's a lot of work, but I love it," concluded Sherri.
Box R Analysis Laboratory
Address: 567 NW Second St. Prineville,
-Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., but samples are not accepted Friday unless otherwise approved by the laboratory director
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