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Water Testing (Microbiological Examination)

Environmental Microbiology: Microbiological Examination of Water Specimen Collection and Transport



All samples must be collected in sterile sample bottles that are supplied by the ISDH for the specific type of sample.  Forms are specific for the type of submitter and must be filled out as completely as possible and returned with the sample.

Sterile sample bottles for the collection of a water sample for a microbiological examination must be obtained from the ISDH by contacting our Container Section at 921-5874 or e-mail at

Drinking water samples are best collected at a utility room or bathroom sink.  The collection area may be washed down with a 10% bleach solution to help prevent contamination.  Flush the faucet for five minutes, using a watch to time the sample.  Turn the water down to a pencil thin stream and fill the container to the fill line.  Do not touch the inside of the lid or the rim of the sample container.  Tightly cap the bottle with the provided lid and place in the Styrofoam packing material.  Complete the form and wrap it around the Styrofoam.

Pool, beach and surface water samples are sampled by dipping the sampling bottle into the water using a forward motion.  Caution should be used to avoid personal contamination by using gloves if necessary.  Pack in shipping materials as directed for drinking water.

A sample must meet the following criteria:

  • Samples must be collected using the ISDH sampling kit.
  • Sample volume must be greater than 100 ml.
  • Drinking water and pool samples must be less than 30 hours old.
  • Beach and other surface waters samples must be less than 6 hours old, or they will be stamped “Sample greater than 6 hours old, Results may be invalid”. Results from these samples would not be acceptable for legal purposes.
  • A valid date and time of collection must be written on the submission form in the appropriate location.
  • Leaking samples may not contain sufficient volume to test.
  • Bottle contains sodium thiosulfate to neutralize any chlorine residual.  Do not rinse out the sample bottle.
  • If residual chlorine is so high that it neutralizes the chemical in the bottle and still smells of chlorine, it cannot be tested.
  • Samples must be accompanied by the completed submission form.
  • Samples frozen in shipment due to inclement weather cannot be tested.
  • Samples of ice require two sampling bottles per sample to insure adequate testing volume.

Samples may be kept on ice for transportation; it is recommended but it is not mandatory.

These samples have a very short holding time and should be delivered to the laboratory as soon as possible.  If the samples are to be mailed, sample collection should be correlated with the time of the closest mail pickup.  An alternate source of shipment other than the U.S. Postal Service may be utilized, such as UPS, or FedEx.  Deliveries may also be made in person to 550 West 16th St, Suite B Indianapolis, IN 46202.

    Test results can be available anywhere from 24-48 hours depending on the sample and test method used.  Results can be mailed, e-mailed or faxed to submitter.