Water Testing Services

Asked October 30, 2017, 4:09 PM EDT

Cherry Hill Community Garden in PG County does not have an on site safe water source for the irrigation of their vegetable gardens. The gardeners are pumping water from a stream in a high water table area and through hoses are watering their garden directly. Do you have the capacity to do some water testing of water taken from the stream for microbes, i.e. e.coli? What other testing would you recommend? Cherry Hill Community Garden does not have a safe source of water for the community garden and at least, the water should be tested before applying directly to edible gardens. Until a better solution is found, what water testing services do you have or recommend? I am a soil scientist with the USDA/NRCS and working with the MNPPC park ranger for solutions. Thanks, Valerie Cohen

Prince George's County Maryland water quality water testing community garden vegetable gardening vegetable irrigation

1 Response

We recommend that you work with MNCPPC staff to determine the legality of pumping water from an urban stream in Prince George's Co. Farmers must obtain a MDE permit if they wish to take more than 10,000 gallons of surface water per day:
http://mda.maryland.gov/Documents/farmpermitguide.pdf

Untreated surface water is especially vulnerable to biological contamination.
It would be especially important to determine upstream activities and
discharges.

Although it does not apply to community gardens you may want to follow the Produce Safety Rule guidelines for testing and monitoring surface water used to irrigate vegetable crops:
https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472887.pdf
These guidelines are part of the larger Food Safety Modernization Act:
https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu/. The Produce Safety Alliance site contains the law, guidelines, and educational resources. It also has information on reducing risks from surface waters (e.g., avoiding direct contact between irrigation water and the edible portion of the crop).

Link to water testing labs from the MDA website:
http://mda.maryland.gov/foodfeedquality/Documents/GAPWATERTESTINGLABS.pdf. Labs should be able to provide guidance on testing for contaminants beyond human pathogens.
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