Frequently Asked Questions

Water FAQs

What can you test my water for?

We can test your water for the presence or absence of coliforms and E. coli bacteria. See Environmental Sciences Branch tests to find out about testing for chemicals.

How much does the testing cost?

The test costs $28.00 per sample.

What kind of container should I use for water testing?

Water samples must be taken in sterile, clean bottles provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Laboratory Services Section. Bottles can be acquired from Laboratory Specimen Receiving. Submission form G-19  must be obtained along with the test container.

How do I submit a sample?

A good location for taking water samples is an outside faucet that does not leak (avoid rubber hoses, fire hydrants, dirty areas, and areas behind bushes). Do not take samples from kitchen or bathroom sinks. Avoid sampling on extremely windy days or when it is raining.

Open the faucet to full flow for three minutes to clean the line. Then, reduce the flow to a slow, steady, spray-less stream. Exercise care when opening the bottle; do not touch the inside of the container or the cap. Do not rinse the bottle. Fill the container slowly to the level indicated by the permanent mark (100 mL) without splashing, then seal it. Proper volume is required for testing.

Samples with the completed submission forms can be mailed or hand delivered to the same place where the bottles and forms were acquired. Refrigeration of water samples during transportation is highly recommended. If mailing is preferred, the sample should be addressed to:

Microbiological Sciences
Laboratory Services Section, MC 1947
Texas Department of State Health Services
PO Box 149347
Austin, TX 78714-9347

Click here for further details on addressing samples to be sent to the DSHS Laboratory.

All samples must arrive at the testing laboratory within 30 hours from the time the sample was collected. Time spent during delivery and processing at our Laboratory Specimen Receiving area should be taken into consideration for transporting samples.

Can I boil a container at home and use that?

It is not recommended and will not be accepted.

How soon can I receive the test results?

Once the test is initiated it takes 18 to 22 hours to complete using the current methodology. All results will be entered into a laboratory reporting system after the tests have been finished. A copy of the results will be forwarded to you through the mail, which may take two to three days.

What do the results tell me?

A "NO COLIFORM FOUND (by MMO-MUG test)" report indicates coliform organisms are absent, and means the water is considered bacteriologically safe to drink at the time of sampling.

"TOTAL COLIFORM FOUND (by MMO-MUG test)" and/or "ESHERICHIA COLI FOUND (by MMO-MUG test)" on your report indicates that the water may be unsafe to drink because coliform organisms are present.

If repeated testing reveals possible coliform contamination, well disinfection is recommended.  Call Water Utility, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) at (512) 239-6020 for details.

Food & Seafood FAQs  ^ Top

Someone in my family is ill, and I think could be because of something they ate. Who do I contact about this?

Contact your local city-county health department.

Can I bring food directly to the health department?

No. You must contact your city-county health department; they will only investigate if there is an outbreak involved.

What do you test for?

We test for a variety of organisms that cause illness.

What kind of food do you test?

We test anything that is associated with an outbreak.

Will you test food for me if I think the place I bought it from is not clean?

No. You need to contact your local city-county health department and they will determine whether or not to conduct an investigation. At that time, they will determine if testing is necessary.

Should I eat raw oysters?

There is a risk associated with eating raw food of any type, especially if there is an underlying disease.

Milk FAQs  ^ Top

Can I bring my milk in to test if I think it makes me or one of my family sick?

No. You must contact your local city-county health department. They will then conduct an investigation. If they feel the product is implicated, they will send it to the laboratory for the required testing.

Should I drink unpasteurized milk or eat products made from it?

It is not recommended.

What makes milk smell bad after I have it in my refrigerator for a while?

There is a small allowable amount of "good bacteria" (ones that do not make us sick) in any pasteurized milk product. After the use by date, the numbers of these bacteria will have grown significantly, creating the characteristic odor of bad milk.


Last updated July 17, 2015