Independent Lab Finds Safe Drinking Water at Stetson

Update: The Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience will host a “flash forum” on the results of water quality testing at Stetson University on Wednesday, March 29, at the Rinker Environmental Learning Center from 6:30-8 p.m.


At the request of Stetson University, the city of DeLand and an independent certified laboratory tested the water in four buildings on campus and found the water is safe for drinking, and meets all state and federal requirements.

The city of DeLand collected water samples this month from Davis Hall, Flagler Hall, Sage Science Center and University Hall, including from water fountains and bathroom sinks, and sent the samples to the independent Pace Analytical Services’ laboratory. Those tests showed the samples meet all standards for safe drinking water, said Keith Riger, director of DeLand’s Public Services.

The testing over Spring Break came after tests conducted in late February by students in a Public Health class.

“We take our water quality very seriously,” said Riger, also the city engineer. “My children drink the (DeLand city) water and my grandchildren drink the water. I think people should feel comfortable that their water is safe to drink.”

State and federal laws require utilities, like DeLand’s water division, to routinely test the water. Those tests occur daily, weekly, monthly, annually and every three years depending on what substance is being checked, he said. The city issues an Annual Water Quality Report, available online, that explains the testing and provides the data.

“We are pleased to report that our system had no violations and are proud that your drinking water meets or exceeds all Federal and State requirements,” according to DeLand’s 2015 Annual Consumer Report on the Quality of Our Drinking Water, the last report available.

The independent testing by the Pace Analytical Services’ laboratory used highly sensitive and sophisticated instruments that detect parameters, such as minerals, to the “parts per billion,” which means a few miniscule molecules in a glass of water, Riger explained. Pace laboratories are accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, which was started by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to ensure national standards for water quality testing.

“We have a lot of regulatory oversight,” Riger said.

Nicole Porther, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of public health, said students in her Foundation of Environmental Health Sciences class used “simple and more rudimentary semi-quantitative testing” that was “not as precise,” based on time constraints and limited resources.

Nicole Porther
Nicole Porther, Ph.D.

I explained (to the class) that you will need to do further testing with sensitive equipment,” she said, referring to tests by an independent accredited laboratory, such as Pace Analytical Services. “I did inform the students of the results (from the lab) and they were relieved.”

Her class now is planning to tour the city of DeLand’s water division to learn about all the state and federal regulations on municipal water supplies, the standards for safe drinking water, and how sophisticated instruments test water quality. The tour is tentatively set for April 6.

“We want this to be a learning experience and we also want our students to have real trust in the outcome through transparency,” said Clay Henderson, executive director of Stetson’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, as well as an attorney and environmental activist.

Upon learning about the student tests, Stetson’s administrators “did absolutely the right thing,” he said.

“They immediately informed the city and samples were taken to an independent lab for testing,” Henderson said, adding he has “complete confidence” in the results by the independent lab.

Clay Henderson, Stetson University
Clay Henderson

Henderson is organizing a public forum for Riger, Porther, one of her students and Stetson Associate Professor Song Gao, Ph.D., an environmental chemist, to explore the issue, as well as discuss overall water issues. No date has yet been set.

“We think this is something that the students will benefit from in terms of the rigor that the city has to meet as the water provider, regulated by the state,” said Al Allen, Stetson’s associate vice president for Facilities Management.

In addition to the city of DeLand’s ongoing water testing, Allen said Stetson also will begin periodically testing the water in buildings on campus to ensure it meets all state and federal regulations for safe drinking water.

Added professor Porther, “We have to make this known to the entire campus that we do not have anything to worry about and that our water is routinely tested by the City of DeLand to ensure the safety of our Stetson community. The University also will test periodically as an added safeguard.”