Sanitary Survey

What is a sanitary survey?

A sanitary survey is defined as "an onsite inspection of the water source, facilities, equipment, operation, and maintenance of a public water system." (18 AAC 80)

Which water systems need to have a sanitary survey?

Most Community Water Systems (CWS) are required to have a sanitary survey every three years. Most Non-transient, Non-community Water Systems (NTNCWS)Transient Non-community Water Systems (TNCWS) are required to have a sanitary survey every five years.

Who can do sanitary surveys?

Sanitary surveys can be conducted by certified third party surveyors, or DEC Drinking Water Program staff. Third party surveyors are individuals with drinking water experience that have participated in DW Program sponsored training, and demonstrated a sufficient level of knowledge, who are then approved by the DEC Drinking Water Program to conduct sanitary surveys. Contact DEC to obtain a list of people approved to conduct sanitary surveys, or click on Approved surveyors to see a list.

How much will it cost?

Sanitary survey costs vary widely, depending on the location, size, and type of system. Some private inspectors charge by the hour while others charge a flat rate. It is a good idea to obtain price quotes from several inspectors. The DEC continues to conduct sanitary surveys, but not as a routine service to water systems. The agency has a table of fixed fees listed in the drinking water regulations, 18 AAC 80.

Which sanitary surveys will DEC conduct?

The department usually conducts surveys at PWS whose water sources pose the greatest health risk to consumers. Water systems using streams, rivers, and lakes without adequate water treatment plants, systems using shallow wells subject to contamination, and systems with a history of total coliform contamination problems are likely candidates for DEC surveys. A PWS may request DEC to conduct a survey by contacting a local DEC office. Every request will be considered, however, because DEC resources are limited, those Alaskan PWS with the greatest possible health risks are helped first.

What happens during a sanitary survey?

A sanitary survey is meant to identify problems which may affect the safety of the water. The survey is based on a physical inspection of the water system and how the system is operated and maintained. Sanitary surveys are an important tool for assuring that drinking water is made safe.

  • During a sanitary survey, a trained inspector, accompanied by a water system owner/operator, performs a field inspection of the water system.

  • The inspector will review water quality test data with the system owner/operator to discuss sample results.

  • The inspector will review how and where water samples are taken to be sure the test results are representative and accurate. The inspector will ask for a coliform sample plan, which identifies where coliform samples are taken, and how the public water system (PWS) will respond to coliform positive results.

  • The current names of the water system owner(s)/operator(s), addresses, phone numbers, population served, and other information is recorded. This information is used to update the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) public drinking water system database.

  • The inspector will ask the operator to perform routine tests of the water for chlorine or turbidity to assure that proper test methods are being used.

  • The inspector will examine and document hazardous conditions which can make the water unsafe. All findings are discussed with the PWS owner/operator.

  • When the inspector completes the onsite inspection, they must submit an electronic sanitary survey report documenting the inspection. This is considered a preliminary report, and is sent to DEC for review; a copy of the report is also given to the water system owner or operator.

What happens if the sanitary survey finds something wrong?

Sanitary Survey Inspectors are looking for situations or issues that are hazards, or risks, or may be barriers a system may have in providing safe drinking water to the consumer during the survey. Findings discovered during the site visit are reviewed with the owner/operator at the time of the inspection; however DEC needs to make final determinations about if the findings are considered deficiencies that will need corrective action. If the situation is an imminent health threat, immediate corrective action is required. After the review is completed the DW Program sends a letter with the final report to the PWS noting any deficiencies that would need to be corrected. If the deficiency does not pose an immediate problem, the water system owner and DEC will work out a schedule for repairs or improvements to the system. Providing safe water for the consumer is the goal of the Public Water System and DEC.

Why is a sanitary survey a benefit to the PWS?

A sanitary survey inspection can help a PWS strengthen its operational and managerial processes, as well as strengthen the infrastructure.

  • The inspection is an independent review of a system to identify barriers or obstacles that prevent systems from doing their best to provide safe drinking water to their customers
  • Once these barriers are identified, they can be resolved.
  • This is an opportunity for DW Program staff as well as surveyors to assist systems by providing operator education, technical assistance and training.
  • A survey allows time for PWS staff to work with and talk to surveyors and DW Program staff on issues they may be having, allowing for increased communication.
  • If there are deficiencies and they are identified and corrected it reduces the risk to public health.

For More Information, Contact:

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Drinking Water Program

  • Anchorage:(907) 269-7656 Fax (907) 269-7655
  • Fairbanks: (907) 451-2108 Fax (907) 451-2188
  • Juneau: (907) 465-5350 Fax (907) 465-5362
  • Kenai: (907) 262-5210 Fax (907) 262-2294
  • Mat-Su: (907) 376-5038 Fax (907) 376-2382