You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers! Here are some frequently asked questions we have received. If you have additional questions, please contact us at (765) 438-4995 or through our contact page.

Getting Started

When should I test my water?
Test your water if you notice any of the following conditions:

  • You see a change in your water quality (color, smell, or other aspect)
  • Your well head has been damaged
  • Your health is impacted by your water
  • IYou have a specific parameter you want to investigate, such as bacterial content or pH
  • You want to test the efficiency of your water softener
  • You are buying or selling property

You can browse our tests for drinking water and recreational water. See our Test Overview or Test Grid for more details! Also, if you are buying or selling property, we offer a full suite of biological and chemical analysis in a Home Diagnostic Test package.

What tests do you offer?
We have tests for drinking water and recreational water. See our Test Overview or Test Grid for more details!
How much will a water test cost?
Our individuals tests range in price from $6 to $70. Our most popular tests are the Well Bacterial Test ($15) and Recreational Water Bacterial Test ($20). For more details on specific tests, check out our Drinking Water and Recreational Water overviews. To see a quick comparison of all the tests we offer, see our Test Grid!
Is there a general water test for everything?
The word “everything” is pretty all-encompassing! Take a look at the specific water tests we offer, and let us know if you have questions about other possible tests!
What kind of payment do you accept?
We accept cash and local checks.

Water Quality

How could a drought affect my water?
Depending on how severely you’re affected, a drought can reduce your water supply or overall water quality. With lower rainfall over a long period of time, there will be a reduced amount of water in your aquifer. Also, the reduced flow of water through your aquifer could increase its rate of bacterial growth. If you are in a drought-affected area, carefully monitor your water for changes in quality. 
What can cause a change in my water quality?
There are many factors that can affect your water quality, both internal and external. If there is runoff into your property from adjoining property (for example, fertilizer from farmland) you can see a change in your water. Also, if your well pump is too powerful, it can pull sand or other debris into your well; a sewage system leak can contaminate your water supply; an issue with your water softener or softening schedule could produce a noticeable change in your water; or a buildup of bacteria in your reverse osmosis system or other water purification system that links into your water line could cause changes as well. If you have questions about your water quality, feel free to contact us or stop by!

The Hows and Whys

Why does it matter if total coliforms or E. coli are present in my water sample?
These bacteria can cause infections, so if they are present in your water supply, you’ll want to isolate the source of the contamination, and take appropriate measures to disinfect your supply.
How often is a public pool required to submit tests?
If you are public pool operator, your pool needs to be analyzed weekly, and weekly reports need to be submitted to your county’s health board. We can help with this. See our Recreational Water Tests overview for more information.
What's the definition of a public pool?
Any pool that is frequented by 25 or more people per week. We offer weekly tests for pools in this category, and can submit reports to you and the county health department. See our Recreational Water Tests overview for more information. 
Why is the sample collection procedure so complicated?
Mistakes can cause false positives, or samples that show a presence of total coliforms or even E.coli even though the water sample is fine. We want to ensure that the sample we’re testing indicates your true water quality, which is why we offer in-depth details on how to collect a sample. Please contact us if you have questions or comments about a procedure so we can best serve you!
How exactly do you test the water?
For 24-hour total coliform presence/absence (P/A) tests, we add a controlled amount of food to your water sample, as well as a chemical that changes color in the presence of total coliforms. We then incubate it at body temperature for 24 hours. If total coliforms are present, your sample will change color. If this happens, we also check your sample to see if E. coli is present: we expose your sample to ultraviolet light. If E. coli is there, your sample will fluoresce (glow) bright blue. For 48-hour heterotrophic plate count tests, we place a fixed amount of your water sample in a petri dish (a shallow, plastic container), then add a JELLO-like bacterial food to the dish. We again incubate this sample at body temperature, though this time the test is done for 48 hours. At the end of this time, we examine the dish for bacterial colonies. Many bacteria show up as small, whitish dots on the surface of their food source. We use a microscope to find and count these bacteria. Based on the amount of water we placed in each dish, we can calculate the abundance of bacteria in your water sample.

Collecting Your Sample

Do I need to use a certain kind of bottle to collect a sample?
Yes! The container you use to collect your water sample can have a significant impact on the quality of that sample. If you are testing your water for bacteria, for instance, you’ll want to be sure and use a sterile bottle. Here’s a handy guide:

Test Container Required Sample Volume Required
Biological tests sterile bottle* 100 mL
Nitrate (certified) nitrate collection bottle* 500 mL
Lead (certified) lead collection bottle* 500 mL
Any non-certified test clean jar 500 mL

*These bottles are available upon request at three locations:

  • Criterion Water Labs (700 E. Firmin St., Kokomo)
  • Howard County Health Department (120 E. Mulberry, Kokomo)
  • Criterion Office (8166 W. 200 S., Russiaville)
How much water do you need to run a test?
The amount of water we need depends on the type of test we’re running. If it is any type of bacterial test, we need at least 100 mL. If it is a nitrate, lead, or other chemical test, we need at least 500 mL. We have sample bottles available for each type of test we offer. Bear in mind it is best to fill beyond the fill line. That is, if you are submitting water in a 100-mL bottle, fill the bottle past the 100-mL mark. We can always pour off any excess sample volumes.
Why is there a white pellet in my sterile sample bottle?
 This is sodium thiosulfate, a chemical that will dissolve in your sample and neutralize any chlorine present, preventing chlorine from interfering with tests. When collecting a sample, be sure that you fill the bottle only once, to be sure that the sodium thiosulfate remains in your sample. 
I am buying or selling a house with a private well. Can you help me test its water quality?
 Definitely! The most common tests in this case are a Well Bacterial Test ($15), a Nitrate/Nitrate Test ($50) and a Lead Test ($70). The great news is that all three of these tests are available as a Home Diagnostic Test ($100, a $35 savings!). These require three different sample bottles, which we provide free of charge, and three different sampling procedures. If you need duplicate copies of the report sent to various parties (for example, you and your realtor), just let us know when you submit your sample!
I am testing a house, church, or business with a private well. Where should I collect a sample?
Great question. What it really comes down to is if you want to assess the quality of water coming directly from the well, the quality of water at some point along the water pathway, or the quality of water reaching the end user. Think of the water pathway as one long relay race, with the baton (water) being passed between many different systems. If any point along the water pathway is introducing a contaminant, the final product will be contaminated. If the final product (the water coming from the tap) is satisfactory, than every point along the water pathway is satisfactory. But, if the final product is unsatisfactory, the contamination may be coming from any point along the water pathway: it may not necessarily be a problem with your well. If you want to test the quality of water coming directly from the well, test the water main. You can also test another point along the water pathway.
How soon after collecting a sample should I submit it?
The sooner the better! Submit it within 6 hours if you do not refrigerate it. If you refrigerate it, submit it within 24 hours if it is a recreational water sample, or within 30 hours if it is a drinking water sample. We also recommend that you keep your sample on ice during transport.

Submitting Your Sample

How can I submit a water sample?
Collect your sample in an appropriate container, then bring it to Criterion Water Labs. Fill out a sample submission form, and you’re in business! There are specific details for individual tests on each of the testing pages. For more information, see the Test Overview!

Getting Your Results

How long will it take to test my water?
This varies with the type of test. For a Well Bacterial Test, we will send you your results in 24 hours. For a Recreational Bacterial Test or Heterotrophic Plate Count, the results will be ready within 48 hours. Other test types vary, and we can give you more details on specific tests. Just contact us for details! 
We can fax, email, or call you all about your results. Also, if you need to have a duplicate copy of the results sent to someone else, we can do that too!

Interpreting Your Results

What do the results mean?
For every test we offer, we will provide the normal range for that criterion. For example, for a presence/absence (P/A) total coliform test, a satisfactory sample has an absence of total coliforms. If you have questions about how to interpret your test results, contact us!
What is the maximum amount of bacteria that is allowable in a drinking water sample? What about in a recreational water sample?
The maximum amount of bacteria that is allowable in drinking water is 500 cfu (colony-forming units) per millileter. For recreational water, the limit is 200 cfu/mL.While it may seem strange that more bacteria are allowed to be in drinking water, it’s because there’s no chlorine in drinking water. If there was a high abundance of bacteria in water treated with chlorine, it would not be safe to swim in!
I've lost my copy of the test results. Can you send me another copy?
Definitely! Contact us, and we can send you a copy in a jiffy!


I accidentally collected hot water instead of cold water from my tap. Can I still submit this sample?
If you are doing a bacterial test of your drinking water when this happens, we recommend that you stop by and pick up a new sample bottle and collect a new sample. The temperature of a sample profoundly affects the rate of bacterial growth, so if you start out with a hot sample, the results you obtain will represent that hot sample, not drinking water that is usually at room temperature or cooler.
What should I do if I find that my well is contaminated with total coliforms or E. coli?
If your well is contaminated with bacteria such as total coliforms or E. coli, boil your water before drinking it, and set up an appointment with a local well driller to arrange for your well to be disinfected. Also, look into possible sources of contamination.
I collected my sample over 6 hours ago and forgot to refrigerate it. Can I still submit it?
No: the bacteria present have had too much of a chance to multiply before we were able to test it. Please stop by and pick up a fresh sample bottle, and submit a different sample. While it may seem like a hassle in the short-term, this will ensure that the results we send you are indicative of your water source’s true quality. 
I made sure that the white pellet stayed in the sample bottle while I collected the sample, but once I collected the sample I could still smell chlorine. Can you still test this sample?
No: if you can still smell chlorine in your sample, there was not enough sodium thiosulfate (the chemical in the white pellet) to neutralize the chlorine. Please contact us so we can discuss what options are available.
I accidentally rinsed out the sample bottle for a bacterial test and discarded the white pellet in the sample bottle. Can I still submit this sample?
No: we recommend that you stop by and pick up a new sample bottle and collect a fresh sample. The sodium thiosulfate in the white pellet is there to neutralize any chlorine present in your sample. If your sample it is not treated with sodium thiosulfate, any chlorine that is present can interfere with the results of the bacterial test.


Do you offer tours?
Yes! We offer tours for all ages, from daycares with children as young as 6 to adults of all ages! Contact us for more information!

Didn’t see your question addressed here? Please contact us at (765) 438-4995 or through our contact page.