Park blames collection errors on failed tests

Published 10:14pm Saturday, September 28, 2013

Two recent tests of the drinking water at Old Cahawba Archaeological Park came back with some troubling results, but officials at the park said there is no reason for the public to worry.

Linda Derry, site director at Old Cahawba, said the two tests in August that showed a presence of coliform bacteria in the sites’ well water were affected by errors in the testing process.

“There is nothing really wrong with our water,” Derry said.

“What it is is that we used to carry our own water samples to the health department and we recently started contracting the testing through a company out of Tuscaloosa, and my maintenance guy was rushing to get the sample and it was raining,” Derry said.

In a public notification letter sent out earlier this month, leadership at Old Cahawba announced that two of the 11 samples taken in August showed a presence of coliform bacteria.

Derry said the first sample was tainted with the ambient rain water, and that the failed test can be blamed on the fact the sample was taken during a downpour.

During a second test that showed high coliform levels, Derry said the person who came to collect the samples used a bottle that had not been sterilized.

“We just have a new relationship and we haven’t worked out the bug with that agreement. We don’t have bugs in our water, we have bugs in our relationship,” Derry said. “The water is safe, but our testing failed us because we are adjusting to a new middleman.”

Multiple calls by the Times-Journal to TTL, Inc. — the Tuscaloosa company contracted to sample, transport and test the water at Old Cahawba — were not returned.

Derry said TTL has performed annual nitrate tests in the water at Old Cahawba, as well as at Fort Toulouse in Wetumpka, and has proven over time to be a company they can trust.

“We have dealt with them before for our yearly nitrate testing, and they have always treated us well,” Derry said.

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