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Water analysis service leaves notices on doors

July 23, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

A water analysis service that has left notices on the doors of several homes in the Hagerstown area this week is not associated with Washington County or the City of Hagerstown, local officials said.

The notices were placed on door knobs in bags that contain small plastic bottles. Residents are instructed to fill the bottles with tap water, fill out questionnaires and hang the bags back on the doors for pickup the next day.

"For the next 2 weeks, we will be testing the water of the residents of your county," the front of the notice reads.

The name of the testing company is not listed.

Julie A. Pippel, director of the county's environmental management division, said water testing should not be necessary for homes that receive public water.

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"Our water meets and/or exceeds all safe drinking water regulations, both federal and state," Pippel said.

County water is tested each year and the Department of Water Quality mails out reports to each customer, she said.

The reports are available online at www.washco-md.net/water_sewer/water_qual.shtm.

Water from Hagerstown's two city-owned water treatment plants also meets all state and federal requirements, according to the latest consumer confidence report from the city's water division.

That report is available online at www.hagerstownmd.org/Utilities/Water.html.

Hagerstown Director of Community Affairs Karen M. Giffin said the city's water division has received several calls about the distribution of the kits to its customers.

Giffin encouraged city water customers to contact the water division with any concerns they might have regarding water quality.

Hagerstown Police Department Lt. Michael King said Wednesday the police department hadn't received any complaints about the distribution.

The situation seems to be more like a marketing campaign than a scam, King said. He said it is common for companies that sell water purification equipment to solicit water samples as part of their marketing efforts.

The questionnaire, which includes questions such as "what brand of laundry detergent do you use most often" and "what is your household income range," suggests the distribution is part of a market research campaign, said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for the Maryland Attorney General's office.

The lack of any company name or phone number should raise suspicions, Guillory said.

"It's not a good idea to do something that's asked of you when you have no idea who's doing the asking," she said.

Hagerstown resident Mary Strasma, who found a kit on her door Tuesday morning, said she heard about a similar distribution in the Baltimore area on the radio.

Strasma said she felt the notice was deceptive because it did not list the company's name and used an official-looking format to advertise a service public water customers don't need.

Property owners who use well water and wish to have their water sampled can consult the Washington County Health Department's Environmental Health Division at 240-313-3400 for advice and information on laboratories that perform testing services.

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