Frequently Asked Questions

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General

What are your hours of operation?
Alloway is open Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. – 5 P.M.

Does Alloway accept samples on weekends?
Alloway does not accept samples on weekends without prior arrangements. There is an additional cost associated with weekend samples.

Does Alloway close for holidays?
Alloway observes the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

How do I initiate the process of getting my water tested?

  1. Call your nearest Alloway laboratory location
  2. Obtain appropriate sample bottles and paperwork from Alloway
  3. Collect and submit samples
  4. Total Coliform Bacteria samples are received Monday to Thursday from 8 A.M.– 5 P.M., and Friday from 8 A.M. to 1 P.M.
  5. All other tests are received Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. – 5 P.M.

Which Alloway facility do I contact?
Your samples may be processed, analyzed, and reported at different Alloway facilities, depending on the analysis. Contact your primary service center first, and they will direct you accordingly.

How do I access my analytical reports online?
Go to https://wfportal.alloway.com and type in your user name and password. If you have not been assigned a user name and password, or you have lost your account information, contact us at 800-436-1243. 

What methods of payment are accepted?
Alloway invoices all customers with established accounts. We accept cash, checks, purchase orders, and Visa, American Express, or MasterCard payments. Unless they have an existing account, bacteria customers must pay at the time samples are submitted.

Who do I contact about my bill?
Office Manager Terrie Jackson handles all billing. Contact her at 800-436-1243.

Does Alloway give lab tours?
Yes, arrangements can be made for customers or special groups to tour the laboratory. Contact John Hoffman at 800-436-1243.

Home Owners

I want to be sure my well water is safe. What do I need to test for?
Consider testing your well for pesticides, organic chemicals, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. Test private water supplies annually for nitrate, coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids, and pH levels to detect contamination problems early. Test them more frequently if you suspect a problem or if there is an outbreak of illness. Be aware of activities in your watershed that may affect the water quality of your well, especially if you live in an area that does not contain sewers.

While Alloway cannot determine if your water is "safe", we can check for some common problems. A key test is for total coliform bacteria, which is the basic test for bacterial contamination. You cannot tell by look, smell, or taste if potentially disease-causing bacteria are present in the water. Most coliform bacteria are harmless, but some rare strains—such as E. coli 0157—can cause illness. Alloway supplies sterile sample bottles and accepts samples at our facilities Monday through Thursday. The sample has a 30-hour holding time.

When is the best time to test my well?
Late spring and early summer are the best times to test your well, since coliform contamination is most likely to show up during wet weather. Whether your test results are positive or negative, understand that the sample you collected is just a "snapshot" of your well water quality. The more samples you have tested, the more confident you can be about the quality of your drinking water.

How do I interpret my test results?
The Ohio EPA Division of Drinking and Ground Waters has a useful tool that can help you in the interpretation of your results. Visit their link at http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/28/documents/pws/CompleteWellAnalysis.pdf for a list of parameters analyzed in a complete well analysis, along with the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for each parameter. Any result over the MCL is considered a health risk.  

What do the results of my bacteria tests mean?
If coliform bacteria are present in your drinking water, your risk of contracting a water-borne illness is increased. Although total coliforms can come from sources other than fecal matter, a positive total coliform sample should be considered an indicator of pollution in your well. Positive fecal coliform results, especially positive E. coli results, should be considered an indicator of fecal pollution in your well.

What should be done if coliform bacteria are detected in my well?
When coliforms have been detected, repairs or modifications to the water system may be required. Boiling the water is advised until disinfection and re-testing can confirm that contamination has been eliminated. When coliform bacteria are found in well water a defective well is often to blame.

Why is my water cloudy?
Cloudy water is usually caused by temperature change and the presence of dissolved air in the water. It is very common in the winter and can last for quite a long time. When water appears to have a milky white, gray, or carbonated appearance, a simple test may suffice to determine its origin. Fill a clear glass with tap water and observe it for a minute or so. If the glass clears from bottom to top, then it is dissolved air escaping into the atmosphere. There is no health risk associated with this.

I see white/gray particles in my water. What are they?
White or grayish particles in your water can often be attributed to two different sources, both of which may pertain to the condition of the hot water tank. There is no health risk associated with either situation.

The characteristics of the particles will help determine the source: If you have white, gray, or dark gray particles that give off bubbles when submerged in white vinegar, you most likely have calcium carbonate particles. These particles are often formed from the hardness of the water when it is heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) in your hot water tank. To help prevent overheating, you should turn the temperature down on the tank. If your hot water tank has calcium carbonate deposited in it, use caution and follow the manufacturer's directions for shutting down, draining, and re-starting your hot water tank.

If you have white particles that reduce water flow by clogging the aerators on your faucets, and that do not give off bubbles when submerged in white vinegar, you most likely have a disintegrating dip-tube. These particles are formed when the plastic dip-tube from the hot water heater degrades and disintegrates in the tank. Please consult with your tank's manufacturer. You will need to have the dip-tube replaced either by the manufacturer or a qualified technician.

Reasons to test your water
This link to Reasons to Test Your Water help you spot problems. The last five problems listed are not an immediate health concern, but they can make your water taste bad, may indicate problems, and could affect your well long term.

Where do I find information about private wells?
http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/well/

Sampling

How do I complete a Chain of Custody?
The chain of custody is a legal document, and it must be included with any sample(s) submitted to the laboratory. It creates an audit trail and tells the laboratory valuable information. Filling it out correctly can save time and reduce errors. Here is an example of a properly completed chain of custody. Click here to download a blank chain of custody (PDF).

How do I properly fill a sample bottle?
Use caution when filing bottles. Some bottles may already have preservatives inside and overfilling the bottle will cause the preservative to wash out.

Wear safety goggles and gloves, and wash your hands after sealing the bottles. Make sure to review the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for common preservatives. Copies of MSDS are available at www.fishersci.com

To determine if a volatile vial is properly filled, turn it upside down. Any air bubbles in the water must be smaller than a pea. If the bubble is larger, you must re-sample. For more information on properly sampling for volatile organic compounds, view our sampling instruction video

Fill bacteria bottles to the line or higher, leaving some head space at the top. 

How do I pack a cooler to ensure samples arrive safely and within temperature requirements?
Follow these steps to make sure Alloway receives your samples at the proper temperature:

  1. Affix a label (written in permanent ink) to each sample bottle. 
  2. Put each bottle in a Ziploc bag.
  3. Use a cooler that is large enough to hold the samples and plenty of ice, but is snug enough to prevent samples from shifting.
  4. Place the completed and signed Chain of Custody in a Ziploc bag.
  5. If there are no hold time requirements, refrigerate overnight.
  6. Pack the cooler with raw ice in Ziploc baggies (raw ice works better than blue ice packs).
  7. Wrap the cooler in a garbage bag and then ship in a box. This prevents water from leaking through the box.
  8. Do not ship on Fridays.

When can I bring samples to the laboratory for bacteria analysis?
Samples for T. coli, Fecal coliform, or E. coli analysis should be brought to the lab Monday through Thursday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., or Friday 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. Alloway observes the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. No samples for bacteria analysis will be accepted the day prior to an observed holiday. 

Does Alloway provide sample bottles?
Yes, call your service center, and we will provide you with the necessary bottles. You can also order bottles on our website.

Does Alloway offer sample pick up?
Alloway has many routes across Ohio. Generally, sample pick-up can be arranged. Contact your service center.

Does Alloway accept samples from other states?
Yes, Alloway will accept samples from across the country, provided you can ship it to our laboratories without exceeding hold times. We are certified to perform drinking water analyses in 13 states. We are NELAP-accredited and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Does Alloway sample private ponds and wells?
Yes. There are field charges associated since tests may need to be performed on site. Contact Alloway for rates.

Results

How soon can I expect my results?
The normal time frame for receiving results is 7-10 working days. Rush service is available with an additional cost.

Bacteria results have a 2-day turnaround. If samples are being submitted for a house closing, allow yourself plenty of time before the deadline, as re-sampling may be necessary.

Can my results be faxed or e-mailed to me?
Yes. Please provide a fax number or e-mail address when submitting samples. A hard copy of your report will also be mailed to you.

Will I be notified if a sample exceeds my permit limitations?
If you request this service, someone from the laboratory will contact you in the event that data are outside your permit limitations.

How do I access older results?
Analytical results are kept on file for 5 years. Call your primary service center.

What are some common units and conversions?
mg/L = milligrams per liter = parts per million
ug/L = micrograms per liter = parts per billion

ppm = parts per million
ppb = parts per billion
ppm = mg/L, mg/Kg, ug/mL
ppb = ug/L, ug/Kg

1ppb = 0.001 ppm
1ppm = 1000 ppb
1 mg/L = 1000 ug/L
1ug/L = 0.001 mg/L
1ug/L = 1000 ng/L
1ng/L = 0.001 ug/L

What does the symbol “<” indicate on my final report?
A number with a < symbol immediately before it (for example: <2) indicates the test result is less than the numerical value documented. This means the test result was not detected at or above the concentration reported.

Training

Does Alloway keep records of seminars and workshops? 
Alloway keeps records for a minimum of 3 years, but it is the individual student’s responsibility to track hours earned. If you attended an Alloway training event within the past 3 years and need proof of attendance, we can provide a certificate of completion for you. Contact Jessica Begonia at 800-436-1243.

Is Alloway an approved contact-hour provider?
Yes, Alloway is an Ohio EPA approved contact-hour provider. If you are located outside Ohio, we may be able to have courses approved in your state. Contact Jessica Begonia at 800-436-1243 for more details.

I am an Ohio EPA licensed operator or analyst. How many contact hours do I need to renew my license?
Visit http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/28/documents/opcert/Contactquestions.pdf to determine the number of contact hours required to renew based on the class of the license. 

Are contact hours the same as continuing education units (CEU)?
One CEU credit may equal a maximum of 10 contact hours. CEU courses are not always approved for contact hours, so be sure to check with your training provider before attending courses in question. All Alloway course are approved by the Ohio EPA and are assigned contact-hour values.

What is the difference between Operations and Maintenance (OM) and Other (X) courses?
In Ohio, at least half of an operator’s contact hours must be directly related to operations and maintenance of a facility, hence the designation OM. Courses that do not relate to operations and maintenance are classified as Other (X). Alloway offers both OM and X courses.

I took an Alloway course, but I can’t find the course number on the Ohio EPA website? How do I know it’s approved?
Alloway is an Ohio EPA approved training provider. We assign our own course numbers. Sometimes our courses are not listed on the Ohio EPA website; however, the number listed on your course certificate of completion is the appropriate number.

Does Alloway provide training courses for states other than Ohio?
Yes. We offer several training courses that can be presented across the United States. This option is especially popular for training coordinators. We customize the courses to your needs and work to get them approved in your state. See the Alloway Course Catalog (PDF) for more details.

How do I purchase training DVDs?

  1. Select the DVD(s) you want.
  2. You may purchase DVDs online from the products page. These secure transactions are processed through PayPal.
  3. If you wish to use a purchase order or pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express) without using PayPal, please contact Jessica Begonia at 800-436-1243.
  4. There is a $20 U.S. Shipping and Handling charge.
  5. You should receive your DVDs in 5-7 business days.

Can I preview the training DVDs before purchase?
Yes, contact Jessica Begonia at 800-436-1243 and she will provide you with a video clip.