County lab in Austintown bustling with water tests

The lab has run more than 400 tests for residents, and the process is anything but simple.

The Mahoning County Board of Health is working to process hundreds of water tests from Sebring, Ohio.


AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Tucked away in an office complex off of Mahoning Avenue in Austintown, the laboratory for the Mahoning County Board of Health has been a busy place since alerts went out concerning lead contamination in the Sebring water system.

The lab has run more than 400 tests for residents, and the process is anything but simple. All the samples have to be logged and processed into the data system, and then workers add nitric acid to each of the one-liter bottles of water to create a solution, which has to sit for 16 hours before it can be tested. A machine is then used that vaporizes a small amount of water and reads the lead content.

Complete coverage of the Sebring Water Crisis.

An auto-sampler can run about 150 samples at a time, according to lab director Scott Bolam. The samples take about three minutes to process.

Bolam said the plan is to let the autosampler run overnight, so the data is ready in the morning.

On Wednesday morning, workers received another 190 test kits from customers who get their water from the Sebring Water Plant. Workers say they expect to run the tests every day until they’re finished, as the Village of Sebring is getting another 1,000 kits to distribute.

“It’s probably going to take several days to process all of that. We are just going to get them as soon as we can. We are going to get the numbers generated and report as we go,” Bolam said.

Each of the tests costs $15. Bolam said he expects that the village will be paying for the residential tests that are completed.

Directors say they have run about 150 residential water samples since the crisis began but have found only five with lead levels higher than 15-parts per billion, which is the EPA standard to take action.

Residents and the EPA will be notified of the results.

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