When Curtis-Steele was an inspector around 2001, she tries to take her own bacteria sample during every audit. “It’s to confirm the results provided by the owner are accurate,” she says. “Sometimes people can take the sample from somebody else’s well and say it’s theirs. It’s been done before.”

Mike Florian, who’s also been an inspector specialist for three decades at the division, says labs can’t find out if the owner rigged the water sample. “They can’t even find out if they’ve chlorinated the supply,” says Florian. “The lab doesn’t check for any of that stuff – where that sample came from, it’s up to the due diligence of the owner.”

Patrick Stewart, who runs the environmental consultant company, Envirosphere Consultants Ltd., helps 20 registered water supply owners in the Hants County and Kings County area test their water. The owners pay him a $500 fee, which includes the annual fee, transit and water testing costs.

Stewart says even though he hasn’t encountered any cheating with his own clients, he’s heard of other real estate companies “putting bleach in the water before taking a sample” to make sure sales go through.

The dishonesty can be caught by inspectors by taking their own samples. But according to the current inspector’s guideline, the Module 6, they’re required to take bacteria samples at only 10 per cent of the registered water supplies they audit.

Chris O’Connell, an inspector specialist at the division’s Truro Office, says when the computer program tells him to go do an audit, he would first ask the owner for a record of water testing results for the past three years to make sure they’ve tested their water as required.

“Sometimes we take a water sample,” says O’Connell. “We don’t take a water sample every single time. We’re required to take 10 per cent (of the facilities we audit).”

For him, that means to sample test the water at one or two of the 15 registered water supplies assigned to him in the Brookfield and Shortts Lake area every three years. However, he recalls when he started the job 12 years ago, inspectors used to take a sample every time they do an audit.

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This story is part of the 'Tap water in N.S. restaurants and houses equally monitored?' series.
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