June, 2016

Water Woes

Back in 2000, Americans watched Julia Roberts bring the story of real life environmental advocate Erin Brockovich to the big screen, telling how Brockovich took on a large power company accused of polluting a city's water supply in California. Fast forward to 2016, a year which started with the city of Flint, Michigan declaring a state of emergency due to extremely high levels of lead in the water, and the constant flurry of news releases from NHDES and the EPA regarding environmental issues right in our back yard. You’ve seen NH’s headlines:


The public has concerns, and rightly so. Due to the news reports, lately customers are calling us at ARA saying they want to test their water “for everything.” People are justifiably scared, but this reaction is a little extreme (and expensive). Our advice to folks is this: follow your state’s water testing guidelines, and if you are near a contaminated site, or have a specific concern, you should test for those additional items as well. As always, ARA encourages everyone with a private well to test their water every few years as a rule of thumb, regardless of what’s going on in the news.
While some contaminants, such as arsenic and barium, are naturally occurring, most others are man-made, mostly due to hundreds of years of pollution, environmental apathy and ignorance.


Drinking water tests and guidelines have been around for decades, and scientists around the world are constantly looking and testing for new contaminants of “emerging concern.”* Unfortunately, due to humankind’s sins of the past, and the current state of chemical management laws, we don’t know everything that’s out there, and new pollutants will likely be discovered in the years to come. For now, we need to be vigilant about what we do know, and stop polluting our natural resources going forward. There are many ways that both big business and individual citizens can help:

  • Follow EPA and DES guidelines, rules and regulations- there to protect, not annoy.
  • ALWAYS properly dispose of hazardous materials.
  • Test your water, soil and air quality for safety, especially if you have reason for concern.
  • Choose healthier / more earth-friendly options whenever possible.
  • Look for ways to reduce your / your company's eco footprint every day (Bike to work! Use earth friendly chemicals! Work with “green” companies! Use reusable bags! Compost!)
  • Teach and talk about these issues with students, friends, and co-workers. Turn apathy into action.

ARA Well Water Testing Kits in Town Halls

With all of the recent concern over water quality in NH and New England, ARA has been reaching out to Town Halls in the region, offering free* Water Testing Kits for distribution to their residents. Homeowners cite convenience and the availability of testing materials as two major barriers to testing their well water, and this solution addresses both!

ARA's certified & accredited environmental laboratory offers Drinking Water Analysis for common contaminants and can also help residents with concerns about emerging contaminants such as PFCs, PFOA/PFOS, 1,4 Dioxane and more.  If you work for a municipality and would like to be among the local towns offering our free* water kits to your citizens, just click this link to email us, and we'll drop them off later this week. Kit includes sample bottles, CoC Form, Price List and informational brochure. *(the kits are free; water testing is not).

Road Trippin' to the Windy City

Alison Keith, Lab Extraction Supervisor and Site Safety Health Officer ( SSHO) at ARA, attended the McCrone Institute in Chicago in April to study “Advanced Fungal Spore Identification,” taught by Dr. Mayam Fallah.

This was Alison’s 3rd visit to McCrone, a non-profit educational and research organization founded by Dr. Walter C. McCrone in 1960. As our resident mold analyst, Alison said this Advanced Indoor Air Quality class gave her some valuable tools and insight that she will immediately start using in her job here at ARA's environmental lab.
“Dr. Fallah’s class offered me a better understanding of the changing characteristics of the mold, making some really difficult species easier to identify.” She also learned about better tools for sampling, as well as lots of amazing tips, tricks and insight from a mycologist of 20+ years. Alison claims she is now able to identify over 50 common and uncommon species of mold, so if you have a strange sample, she’s up for the challenge! But while she claims to love meeting new people who share her passion for microscopy and mold, and learning at the renowned McCrone facility, we really think she keeps going back for the deep dish pizza and walks through Grant Park! ;)  Welcome back Alison, and keep up the great work!

Federal Project Profile: Asbestos

Team ARA has had a crew up in Northern Maine for the past few months, managing a large scale Asbestos Abatement for the US Navy. This $350,000 job at a Power Plant involved removing asbestos and non-asbestos insulation from several hundred linear feet of pipes containing fuel, water and air, then re-insulating, painting, and labeling all pipes.

Several weeks of pre-planning went into this project, to ensure the safety of all workers and employees at the Power Plant during the renovation. In addition to our Site Safety and Health Officers (SSHO) managing all safety and environmental compliance issues, ARA’s Project Managers hired and managed a team of a dozen subcontractors, scheduled the set up and break-down of several stages of containment, and ensured that all aspects of the project were completed per the clients wishes and to the letter of the law.

The crew performed safe and efficient abatement work over several weeks, often working twelve hour days to keep on top of scheduled deadlines.  The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MEDEP) showed up in the middle of the project to perform a surprise site Inspection, which resulted in a glowing review. When all of the Asbestos Abatement was complete, the Engine Skids passed clearance and the project moved on to the re-painting and re-insulating phase. In the end the site looked clean and professional, and more importantly, was asbestos-free and safe. Nice work team!

Students Visit ARA

Four young budding scientists visited  ARA last month to test the effectiveness of their survivalist water filtration systems as part of a unit studying their local ecosystem. The students collected water from a nearby pond, which tested positive for bacteria. They then created water filters using sand, ash, and other organic materials. These homemade filters were able to successfully filter the water to be coliform and E. coli free. They (and we) were proud of their results, and we bet survivalist Bear Grylls would be impressed!



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