On November 29, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) published that they upheld the decision on September 28, 2021, to revoke the state certification for ETR Laboratories after ETR allegedly “failed to properly analyze water samples and report test results in accordance with state regulations” in 2017.

Their basis for the decision contained contradictions and inaccuracies that should be heard.

MassDEP allegation #1: “The results delivered by ETR showed that the laboratory had reported the existence of certain bacteria, fungi and chemicals that did not and could not exist in the sterile and spiked samples that undercover investigators had sent for testing.”

The facts: In 2017, MassDEP sent ETR alleged “sterile” water samples for testing and indicated that they tested the same lot of water in MassDEP’s own laboratory. During the discovery portion of ETR’s appeal, MassDEP resisted providing their laboratory raw data, but when issued to do so, it was made clear that the MassDEP test results indeed also found bacteria in the samples. The MassDEP went so far as to identify this bacteria as Morganella morganii (MassDEP report dated 5/24/2017).

MassDEP allegation #2: In page 3 of their revocation letter issued to ETR in January 2018, MassDEP stated that, “MassDEP Laboratory… did not observe the presence of…mineral or sand particles in any of the 5 samples…it is not possible for them to have contained the contaminants reported by ETR Labs.”

The facts: On an earlier page (2) of that same letter, MassDEP states that the samples sent to ETR contained minerals in the form of salts. Page 2 reads, “[t]he PT samples, consisting of laboratory reagent water spiked with salts to simulate a typical well water matrix, were added to sample bottles provided by ETR Labs and were then delivered to ETR Labs.”

MassDEP allegation #3: MassDEP states that ETR Laboratories “repeatedly failed to properly analyze private drinking water samples and report the test results in accordance with its certification and state regulations.”

The facts: MassDEP’s own webpage states, “MassDEP does not regulate private wells.” As such, it is an overreach to indicate that there are state-issued regulations for private well water for ETR to comply with, and further, that the MassDEP is even qualified to determine what “proper analysis of private drinking water” is. The EPA itself even publishes on its website (https://www.epa.gov/privatewells) “EPA does not regulate private wells nor does it provide recommended criteria or standards for individual wells” meaning that private wells are not equivalent to the regulated treated public water supplies that the MassDEP has jurisdiction over. Further, ETR reports include a statement that the analyses were not conducted in accordance with MassDEP certification standards (that only apply to these public water supplies).

ETR would also like to note that this revocation by MassDEP does not influence the testing it has long provided for thousands of private well owners. Because MassDEP has no jurisdiction over private well water quality and analysis in Massachusetts or any other state, regulation of private wells is left up to local Boards of Health. As many Boards of Health agents do not have scientific backgrounds, however, ETR fills the gap needed for expertise on private wells with having analyzed over 150,000 private wells and having conducted over 1,000 well inspections in the past 20 years.

Quality is the Highest Priority

ETR still undergoes inspection and accreditation to an international standard for testing (most recent inspection September 2021).

  • ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation: ETR recently completed its ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation renewal that followed an inspection to determine “competence, impartiality and consistent operation of laboratories.” The inspector commented that ETR was “competent to perform the analyses on the accreditation scope. The staff were interviewed and are knowledgeable of the methods they were assigned. The equipment is well maintained and is capable of producing the required results.” (Report dated September 28, 2021)

ETR is also proud of these other markers of its quality:

  • Very high rating on Angi: With Angi (formerly Angie’s List), ETR has a 4.8 out of a possible 5.0 rating, based on 372 verified reviews.
  • Satisfied customers: Among 344 of ETR’s customers who followed a link on their test result emails to fill out a satisfaction survey, 94.7% selected the highest possible satisfaction rating.
  • Association membership: ETR is a member in good standing of the Water Quality Association and the Massachusetts Ground Water Association, Inc.

Testimonials from ETR’s Customers

As a first time home buyer, I am learning a lot of things for the first time and have many questions. When I had some results I didn’t understand, Nick spent a long time walking me through the results and was patient with my questions. After I had the seller shock the well, I had more questions after a second test was done with a different lab. Nick spent a long time explaining results, potential problems and if needed, possible remediations for problems. I cannot recommend Nick enough! Yelp review by B., Brooklyn

I needed my water tested and had a hard time finding a lab that would perform what they categorized as a “Health Test.” The staff was extremely helpful and thorough and spent the time to help me determine which test was the best option for me…They… provided the results over email in about a week and a half and emphasized to call them with any questions regarding the results. If I need water tested again I will not be going anywhere else. Google review by L.M.

Thank you VERY much for the quick turnaround on these results. We sent a sample to another lab a month ago and STILL have no report. I am very happy we had another sample taken and sent to you. Thank you again! J.B.

Accomplishing ETR’s Mission

ETR’s mission is to help private well owners achieve and maintain clean, healthy water supplies. ETR will continue to fulfill its mission by providing accurate results in the shortest time frame possible and backing these results with excellent customer service.

Customers are always welcome to call for an explanation of their results so they know what options are available to them and may be best given their individual situation. ETR’s role includes serving as a resource to private well owners to help them understand and improve their water quality. As always, ETR Laboratories remains fully transparent, and anyone with concerns about ETR’s quality or operations is welcome to drop by the Leominster laboratory and ask for a tour or call with any questions about certification, standards or testing procedures.

In the future, as in the past, ETR will strive to achieve the highest standards in its testing to protect the water quality and health of families across the country.