Perry Beeman explains how relatively simple newspaper-sponsored water tests can have a big impact on news and on water quality. His tests were even cited by government regulators. See tips and story examples below this audio report.
Beeman’s tips for sampling:
- Go with your educated hunch. You know the local environment. You probably know areas in which the state has been lax in checking for pollutants. Push the issue. Do your own sampling.
- Devise a protocol with the help of a certified laboratory. Each state has a hygienic laboratory, usually the people in charge of testing drinking water, the air, etc., for the state government. Develop a source willing to help you design a protocol that is defensible against the inevitable critics. Use a private lab if you choose. Use sample bottles (or other equipment) provided by the lab and follow the lab’s directions carefully. The last thing you want to do is contaminate a sample or collect it improperly. Don’t invite criticism.
- Record the weather cons, time and place of each sample. Be detailed. Think like a scientist.Hire the laboratory to do the analyses. Some state labs will do a certain number of samples free, for you or any other member of the public.
- If possible, do several rounds of sampling. The data will be more meaningful.
- Discuss the results with lab personnel, confidentially, to make sure you are interpreting correctly. Make sure there are no mistakes on the order of magnitude or units of measure used in the reporting.
Stories generated with this technique that appeared in the Des Moines Register