Joshua K. Das, Water Test Expert

Joshua DasJoshua K. Das has an MS in environmental health from Harvard School of Public Health as well as a BS in chemistry from Tufts University. He currently works as project Manager and public health manager for the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA). Joshua was kind enough to grant us an interview via e-mail correspondence.

How did you get started in the field of water quality?
I worked as a summer intern at my hometown water and sewage treatment plant during my undergraduate years.

How often does your company test the drinking water provided to consumers?
Thousands of times each week.

From what locations does your company take the water samples that are to be tested?
We test the water from the source waters through the treatment plant to multiple locations in all 47 communities that we serve.

What are some common concerns that consumers voice in regard to their drinking water?
The most common concern is lead. I also receive many questions on quality of water, possibility of pathogens and if we use fluoride.

How can a consumer tell if they have a water quality problem? Are there any tell-tale signs consumers should be wary of (i.e. smells, slight tastes, etc.)?
If their water is discolored, then likely there is construction going on in the area that is causing a change in water pressure and consequently makes the water rusty. Usually, this water is not a health concern, but more of a nuisance. Otherwise, lead in tap water is associated with older homes (pre-WWII) but is not visible or tastable. Most concerns are not visibile or tastable.

What types of equipment are necessary for a lab to conduct a water test?
Our lab has extensive and advanced testing equipment, from colifrom plating equipment to GC/Mass Spec.

What are the major impurities that your lab tests for?
Our lab tests for over 120 different contaminants, with hundreds of thousands of tests each year.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for homeowners who wish to get their water tested?

Go to a certified lab. Most over the counter test kits (sold at hardware stores) are not reliable and do not provide accurate results. Also, read your Consumer Confidence Report (or Annual Water Quality Report) for your local area to find out where you water comes from and the test results. From this report, the consumer might be able to determine if any testing would be advisable (e.g. lead, nitrate, coliform). I often receive calls from customers who want to test the water, but do not realize how many different compounds you can test for, and that multiple tests can become expensive.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for people who want to get a job in water testing?
Talk to your local water department (if applicable) and ask for a tour of the lab (if applicable) or talk to someone who does the testing. They are likely to provide a realistic view of their work and how to get work in the field. Also, contact some of the certified labs in your area and find out if you can intern or shadow some of their employees to see the work being performed.

For more information on water testing, please read our Water Test Guide. To find a water test or water tester in your area, please visit our Water Test Directory.

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