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Environmental Health Laboratory

Please be advised that the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County will be closing the Volusia County Environmental Laboratory located at 1250 Indian Lake Road, Daytona Beach on October 1.


Welcome to our website!

We are glad you found us. We are here to help you find answers to your water quality questions. If you do not find your question in these choices…give us a call at 386-248-1781 we will be glad to help.

All questions are important. We want you to know about the quality of your water so you can make informed decisions about your water; its impact on you and the environment in which we live.

Be sure to visit the Water Atlas site for comprehensive information about upcoming events, environmental news and water quality data for sites throughout Florida.


Jack Towle, R.S., D.A.A.S., M.P.A.
Lab Director

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Frequently asked questions

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Chlorides in your water

The recommended state standard for chlorides for public water is 250 parts per million (PPM). Water with readings greater than 250 PPM is not recommended for drinking. Most waters contain some chloride in solution. The amount present can be caused by leaching of marine sedimentary deposits, pollution from sea water, brine or industrial and domestic waste. Chloride concentrations in excess of 250 PPM usually produce a noticeable taste in drinking water. Chlorides can be removed by distillation, demineralization or reverse osmosis.

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Enterococcus Bacteria

The red colonies you were looking at on this plate were enterococcus bacteria. They were cultured on mE agar for 48 hours at 35oC.

Enterococcus bacteria are a valuable indicator for determining the extent of fecal contamination of recreational surface waters. Studies have shown that swimming associated gastroenteritis is related directly to the quality of the bathing water and that enterococci are the most efficient bacterial indicator of water quality. Water quality guidelines have been proposed based on enterococcal density.

Recreational fresh waters should have less than 33 enterococci/100 ml and marine waters should have less than 35 enterococci/100 ml.

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Fecal Coliform Bacteria

The blue colonies you were looking at were fecal coliform bacteria. They were grown on M-FC agar which contains lactose, protein digest, vitamins, bile salts, selective chemicals, and an aniline blue dye.

A 100-ml of a water sample is drawn through a membrane filter (45m pore size) through the use of a vacuum pump. The filter is placed on a petri dish containing the M-FC agar and incubated for 24 hours at 44.50o C. This elevated temperature heat shocks non-fecal bacteria and suppresses their growth. As the fecal coliform colonies grow they produce an acid (through fermenting lactose) which reacts with the aniline dye in the agar thus giving the colonies their blue color.

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Iron in your water

The recommended state standard for public water for iron is 0.3 PPM. Iron is an aesthetic problem only. Iron may impart reddish-brown staining to laundry and plumbing fixtures. It can impart a bitter or astringent taste to water and can affect the taste of beverages at concentrations in excess of 1.0 PPM. The amount of iron causing objectionable taste or staining is only a small fraction of the amount consumed in the daily diet. Iron can be removed by water filtration treatment processes such as ion exchange or oxidation followed by filtering. Iron is naturally occurring but can also be caused by corrosion of iron or steel piping or iron-producing bacteria. Concentrations of 1-5 PPM in groundwater is common.

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Lead in your water

The Environmental Protection Agency has established a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of zero for lead; and an action level of 15 ppb.

Lead is a common metal found throughout the environment in lead-based paints, air, soil, household dust, food, certain types of pottery, porcelain and pewter, and water.

Lead can pose a significant risk to your health if too much of it enters your body.

Lead builds up in the body over many years and can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells and kidneys. The greatest risk is to young children and pregnant women. Lead in drinking water, although rarely the sole cause of lead poisoning, can significantly increase a person’s total exposure, particularly infants who drink baby formulas and concentrated fruit juices that are mixed with water. Lead is found in drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion, or wearing away, of materials containing lead in the water distribution system and household plumbing.

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Nitrates in your water

The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate for public water is 10.0 parts per million (PPM). Serious and occasionally fatal poisonings in infants have occurred following ingestion of well waters with nitrate nitrogen concentrations greater than 10.0 PPM. The major health concern involves infants 6 months or younger since their digestive system is too immature to break down nitrates. Methemoglobinemia or "blue baby syndrome" results when high nitrate levels are present. Methemoglobinemia causes the hemoglobin iron in the blood to not transport oxygen throughout the body thus creating a "blue" skin color. Constant exposure to nitrates (even at marginal levels) results in an oxygen shortage which could cause brain damage. Since a high level of nitrates in water does not impart taste, color or odor, the only way to determine it’s level is to have the water analyzed. The average citizen takes in 75 to 100 mg of nitrates each day, mostly from vegetables such as beets, lettuce and spinach. Nitrate is an essential nutrient and hence, a major component of animal wastes and decomposing organic matter. Chemical fertilizers are another source of nitrogen. Nitrates can build up in the soil and leach into groundwater.

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Phosphorus in the water

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for all life forms. It does not exist in a gaseous state and natural inorganic phosphorus deposits occur primarily as phosphate in the mineral apatite. Phosphate is usually not readily available for uptake in soils. Most of the phosphorus in soils is absorbed to soil particles or incorporated into organic matter (Smith, 1990; Craig et al., 1998; Holtan et al., 1998). In freshwater systems phosphorus (as orthophosphate) is generally the limiting nutrient. Thus, if sufficient phosphorus is available, elevated concentrations of nitrates will lead to algal blooms and perhaps fish kills. Long-term eutrophication will usually be prevented if total phosphorus levels and orthophosphate levels are below 0.5 mg/l and 0.05 mg/l, respectively (Dunne and Leopold, 1978). Nitrogen is generally the primary limiting nutrient in the seaward portions of estuarine systems (Paerl, 1993). Systems may be phosphorus limited, however, or become so when nitrogen concentrations are high and N:P<16:1 (Jaworski, 1981). The State of Florida regulation of phosphorus in surface waters is based on whether nutrient enrichment results in violations of other standards in any of the surface water classes (I-V), and whether nutrient concentrations result in "an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora or fauna" for classes I-III (62-302.530, F.A.C., Criteria for Surface Water Quality Classification.

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Total Coliform Bacteria

You were looking at a petri dish showing the "golden-green sheen" colonies typical of total coliform colonies. These colonies were grown on m-endo agar containing lactose, protein digest, vitamins, selective chemicals and Schiff’s Reagent. Coliform bacteria produce an acid aldehyde (among other by products) that combines with the Schiff’s Reagent to form an iridescent green coating over the growing colonies thus giving the "golden-green sheen " appearance.

A 100 ml sample of water is drawn through a membrane filter (45m pore size) with the help of a vacuum pump. The plate is placed in an incubator inverted in a moist container for 24 hours at 35o C.

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Turbidity in surface water

Clarity of water is important in producing products destined for human consumption and in many manufacturing operations. The major concern with turbid water is the fact that it greatly decreases the effectiveness of chlorination and disinfection. The clarity of a natural body of water is an important determinant of its condition and productivity. Turbidity in water is caused by suspended and colloidal matter such as clay, silt, finely divided organic and inorganic matter, and plankton and other microscopic organisms. Turbidity is an expression of the optical property that causes light to be scattered and absorbed rather than transmitted with no change in direction or flux level through the sample. The MCL (maximum contaminant level) for turbidity for public potable water is 1 NTU (nephelometers turbidity units).

 **Information supplied by the 19th Edition 1995 Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater.

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Why do we test drinking water?

A host of human diseases, particularly those of the gastrointestinal tract are spread through fecally contaminated water. The isolation and identification of specific disease-producing bacteria, parasites and viruses that may exist in water is time consuming and possibly hazardous. Therefore, appropriate indicator organisms are used to detect the presence of these enteric pathogens (disease causing bacteria). These indicators belong to the coliform group of bacteria. They were selected because they are usually present in water containing pathogenic organisms; survive longer in the aquatic environment; are relatively harmless; and are easily grown, isolated and identified.

Current regulations in the U.S. as well as most other countries require that potable (drinking) water be tested for the presence of total coliform organisms.

The term "total coliform organisms" refers to a group of gram-negative aerobic to facultative anaerobic, non-spore forming, rod shaped bacteria which ferment lactose at 35o C in 24-48 hours. Or, as applied to the membrane filtration technique, the term applies to a group of gram-negative, non spore-forming, rod shaped bacteria that develop a red colony with a green metallic sheen w/i 24 hours at 35o C on endo-type medium containing lactose. These organisms are widely distributed in nature and many are native to the gut of warm blooded animals, including man. They are considered to be non-pathogenic under normal conditions and are able to exist as free living saprophytes (an organism which lives on dead organic material) as well as in the intestinal tract.

The absence of total coliforms in a water supply is used as a basis for considering the water safe to drink.

Call your local Environmental Health Office to arrange for sample collection and/or analysis.

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Why do we test surface water?

The surface water system in Volusia County host a wide variety of both recreational and commercial events.  This precious commodity is subjected to many influencing factors which potentially carry negative results on the health of our aquatic systems such as on lakes, rivers, and lagoons.  With encroaching urban development and increased number of marinas and boats, the health of our surface water must be monitored to ensure our environments survival.  As a result of this concern, we monitor sixteen parameters to follow and pinpoint pollution sources.

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Operating hours & holidays

Lab Sample Acceptance Hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Limited weekend hours on request (Saturday or Sunday) - 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
(NOTE: samples should be delivered no later than 2 p.m. for same day analysis.)

The Lab is closed on the following holidays for 2013

  • Thursday, July 4 - Independence Day
  • Monday, September 2 - Labor Day
  • Monday, November 1 - Veteran's Day
  • Thursday, November 28 - Thanksgiving
  • Friday, November 29 - Thanksgiving
  • Wednesday, December 25 - Christmas
  • Wednesday, January 01, 2014 - New Years Day

Public water systems involved in a line break please call 386-248-1781. We may be able to accommodate you on a case by case basis.

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Our history

The merger of the Volusia County Health Department Laboratory and the County Environmental Management Department Laboratory continues to be a good example of innovative interagency cooperation. This merger has increased the services offered to the citizens of Volusia County while saving the County money through the elimination of duplicate maintenance and certification fees.

This unique merger has been recognized for it’s accomplishments and awarded the Florida TaxWatch’s Davis Productivity Certificate of Achievement in 1995. In 1996 the lab was a National Association of Counties Achievement Award Winner. The lab also received Certificates of Appreciation from the Halifax/Indian River Task Force in 1995-99. The lab was honored as the 1998 Outstanding Team of the Year by the Volusia County Environmental Health Department.

The laboratory is National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP) certified (E23111). Being State certified allows the data provided by the laboratory to be used in court to support regulatory and enforcement actions, if necessary.

The Laboratory is certified by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) Bureau of Laboratories Certification Program to perform analyses for the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

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Our location

Environmental Health Laboratory entrance

The Laboratory is conveniently located approximately
4 miles west of Daytona Beach off of Highway 92 at:

1250 Indian Lake Road
Daytona Beach, FL 32124-1038

Phone: 386-248-1781 or 1780
Fax: 386-248-1785

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Projects and Volunteers

Lab Projects

Here are some of our most recent projects. If you have ideas for future projects or projects you would like to see done or get involved in go to the contact page and submit your information and we will be happy to discuss your ideas.

We are certified in standard method 1600 (24 hour enterococcus method) used in the Health Beaches Ocean Sampling Program. We perform ocean sampling analysis for Brevard, Flagler, and Volusia Counties. To review results of the Healthy Beaches Program for the State of Florida click this link Healthy Beaches Results


Volusia County Environmental Health Laboratory is looking for Volunteers to assist with water collection in the field. Read about our Surface Water Projects (57 kb PDF)

Within the past decade, spurred on by the scientific community and the growing environmental awareness of concerned citizens, there has been a surge of governmental regulations at all levels relating to environmental matters. At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated many requirements covering land, water, and air pollution.

At the state level, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) have imposed additional requirements and implementing instructions as to how EPA and FDEP programs shall be carried out.

The County has developed a wide range of environmental minimum standards that have been implemented by the municipalities and the County. These standards spell out in detail how the local environmental goals are to be met.

Unfortunately, during this same time frame, funding from federal, state and local sources has not kept pace with the increased concern for protection of the environment. As a result there is a demand for volunteers to help protect the environment.

Want to volunteer? Sign up now and get on our mailing list by calling us at 386-248-1781 or email your information through Environet's volunteer sign up page.

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Services we offer

In this section we tried to anticipate your questions about water.  If we did not cover your question, please give us a call and we will be happy to get you the information.

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Page last updated: 09/12/13