International #DayoftheGirl – October 11th

According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, women account for less than 30% of the world’s researchers in science, technology, and innovation.  Recognizing International Day of the Girl is one way we can encourage women and girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and spread the word about the importance of positive influence in the lives of young girls everywhere.

This year’s theme “With Her: A Skilled Girl Force” encourages girls everywhere to be inspired, innovative, and to take charge of their own future.

At Suburban Testing Labs, we value the contributions of our innovative thinkers without consideration of gender.  Women make up 71% of our senior leadership team.  And overall, women make up 51% of our workforce.  Compared to 30% worldwide, we are proud to be shattering the glass ceiling of women in STEM careers.

In addition to valuing a diverse workforce within the walls of our laboratory, we are working to make an impact on future generations.

Sara Stump, Director and wife of our President, Richard Stump, recently joined the Science and Health Pathway Advisory group supporting a county wide Career Pathways Alliance effort to prepare students for current and future workforce needs.  This panel includes nine industry experts from the greater Berks County area, in the backyard of our headquarters.  These experts advise curriculum directors for each school in the county, providing guidance on workforce needs, trends, and skills required in careers related to science. The Alliance input is vital in creating a bridge between industry and education locally.

How can you make an impact?  Join the Movement at or download their Action Toolkit. Together, we can make an impact on young girls everywhere.

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PA Brownfields Conference

Plan to join us to learn about opportunities for transforming communities throughout the commonwealth, at the PA Brownfields Conference.  Conference attendees will experience the Lehigh Valley’s success in creating a vibrant destination where people want to live, work, play and visit.

The Conference is planned in collaboration between the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP).

CLICK HERE to register, and to learn more about this great event!

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Back to Basics Lab Training

Sara at EPWPCOAWater and Wastewater Operators – Check out the EPWPCOA Laboratory Practices Training November 1st on “Back to Basics – Understanding the Fundamentals of Water Testing and Sampling Techniques.” You’ll see our own Sara Kuzma-Stump, Director, and Rich Stump, President, presenting on analysis and sampling techniques.  And the class provides 5 Water AND Wastewater CE Credits.  Register online today. Spots are limited!

Course Details

Date: Thursday November 1, 2018

Location: Reading Wastewater Treatment Plant
Registration and coffee & donuts – 7:30 AM
Class will be held from 8:00 AM to 2:30
Lunch will be served.

This training course is designed to assist folks in the wastewater and drinking water treatment industry in understanding the basics lab testing for wastewater and drinking water, and the sampling techniques used to collect these samples. Attendees will walk away with a better understanding of what lab tests are required to be performed, where the contaminant originates, the environmental and health impact of each contaminant, options for testing and sampling requirements. This course is ideal for folks new to the industry, industry stakeholders that want to expand their knowledge or industry veterans that would like a refresher.

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Another Road Project?

Vacations require transportation.  Whether you’re driving, flying or taking a bus, you need to get from here to there somehow.

It’s rare to travel anywhere in the mid-Atlantic region during the summer without encountering road construction of some sort.  While this can be a giant pain for travelers and commuters, the long-term benefit is important.  And here at Suburban Testing Labs… we love infrastructure projects.

Investments in transportation infrastructure improvements are important to our way of life as Americans.  Safety on roads and bridges are a top priority.  Reduction in travel time and traffic congestion are also important  benefits.

Most of our readers are probably aware that some demolished construction materials and reclaimed fill (soil, dirt and other materials) can be recycled into new asphalt products or road base materials.  Our laboratories analyze soil, and various types of solid materials, every day to determine if it is safe for beneficial reuse, or if it should be classified as hazardous.

In addition, we frequently analyze soil for large expansion projects involving major highway, airport, and rail projects (just to name a few).

We are proud to support the preservation of our environment, and growth of our transportation infrastructure with our laboratory testing.  Our analysts passionately pursue perfection in data quality so our clients can make important environmental decisions.

The next time you’re driving on a new stretch of highway, crossing a new bridge, or boarding at an airport, look around, marvel at the engineering work.  Then wonder to yourself “was my lab involved in the testing here?”  We very may well have been.

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Environmental Testing for our Rivers, Lakes and Streams

Pennsylvania has six major watersheds.  A major watershed that feeds the Delaware is the Schuylkill River.

Our headquarters are in the Schuylkill River Watershed, and we perform analytical testing for many clients in the region-  protecting the health of this important natural resource.

Learn more about this watershed, and the great recreational opportunities it provides.

The Schuylkill River Watershed by The Numbers

This Watershed covers 2,000 square miles over 11 counties.  There are over 3 million residents and the River provides a drinking water source for 1.5 million people.

The Schuylkill River, Philadelphia (PA)

This tributary joins the Delaware River in Philadelphia, which covers 13,500 miles, encompasses 4 states, and supplies drinking water to 15 million Americans.

In addition to providing drinking water, hundreds of wastewater treatment plants discharge into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers above Philadelphia. The Schuylkill River is sometimes as much as 60% treated wastewater discharge during prolonged periods without rain. The Philadelphia Water Department is closely studying impacts of such high percentages of effluent on overall water quality.

The health of the river impacts millions of people.  The public trusts that we are using the highest quality standards when analyzing samples going into or coming out of the River.  We understand that the results of our water testing are used to make important decisions.  Trustworthy data quality is of utmost importance for us to meet that demand.


According to, the river is cleaner and healthier than it has been in over a century due to the Clean Water Act, investments infrastructure improvements, and source water protection.

This 135-mile-long river, which means “Hidden/Skulking Creek” in Dutch, provides wildlife habitats, and offers countless opportunities for recreational activities including swimming, boating, hiking, biking, and many parks.


The area is a criss-cross of options that connect parks and trails along the watershed.  They can be simple or mixed use, such as Valley Forge National Park.  But if you’re seeking a more advanced hike, you’ll find it on the Appalachian trail above Hamburg, PA.

One of the most popular attractions is the Schuylkill River Trail (, which provides 60 miles of biking and hiking trails, and can be accessed from multiple locations.


Fisherman also enjoy bank fishing, since the River is home to more than 40 species of fish. Common catches on Schuylkill Banks include catfish, perch, sunfish, carp and bass.  Last summer a fisherman from Germantown caught a 30-pound carp in Philadelphia.

You can keep track of what people are catching on the PA Fish and Boat Commission website (

National Water Quality Month


Water trails for unpowered boats are plentiful, and residents can launch their canoe, kayak or rowboat from any designated launch area.  The Schuylkill River Heritage Area has a great interactive map that provides all the information a boater needs to access and navigate the waterway.


Learn more about this resource rich waterway at, where you can also find maps, things to do, and resources to plan your next visit.

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Suburban Testing Labs Enters List of Top Labs

Last week TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group, the leading consulting and advisory firm to the environmental and water resource industry, released their highly anticipated list of “The Largest Environmental Testing Labs – 2017,” which ranks the country’s largest environmental testing laboratories by revenue.  Suburban Testing Labs joined the list for the first time, ranked at number 25.   It is estimated that there are around 1100 total environmental laboratories in the United States. We are the only lab headquartered in southeastern Pennsylvania to appear on the list.

The industry survey concluded that growth from the previous year was relatively flat, which indicates Suburban Testing Labs is growing as a result of market share expansion rather than industry growth.   The study goes on to say that the environmental lab industry has grown only 2.5 percent over the past 10 years.  Suburban Testing Labs’ growth over the past 10 years has been 365 percent.

19 labs on the list are conglomerate network laboratories labs with multiple locations.  Only 6 are single site laboratories, including Suburban Testing Labs.

The total revenue of the list was $1.138 Billion, and the top three labs (TestAmerica, Pace Analytical Services, and ALS Lab Group, respectively) make up 49 percent of the total revenue.  However, Pace and ALS report significant additional non-environmental testing revenues.

What Does This Mean?

Suburban Testing Labs is the 6th largest single site environmental laboratory in the nation, according to this list.  With continued revenue increases in a flat industry, more and more clients are choosing Suburban Testing Labs over the competition.  And the largest labs on the list lack the singular environmental focus, and diversify into other markets such as pharmaceutical testing.  Specialization in environmental analysis allows for greater subject matter expertise to better support client needs, and avoids rivalry among business units for profit investment.

Furthermore, with consolidation and investor owned structures dominant in the industry, independently owned labs are also in the minority.   As an independent and family-owned company, we enjoy greater flexibility in capital investment choices, and the ability to focus freely on employee investments.  Conglomerate and/or investor-owned labs typically see an erosion in these areas, requiring profits to rise to the highest tier.

How Did We Get Here?

The dedication of our passionate people pursuing excellence every day is the reason for our success.  Employees that come on board admire the great culture of our family owned business atmosphere, but it does come with the price of very high expectations.  These expectations are set by our visionary President and Lab Director, Mr. Rich Stump, III.  Mr. Stump believes that a culture of employee recognition, a commitment to excellent data quality, and a fantastic customer experience is the formula that will turn clients into loyal, enthusiastic fans.

Congratulations to all of the Suburban Testing Labs team on achieving this great milestone of success.

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Testing Pool Water

Your poolside worries should be limited to swimming, sunblock, and selfies – not bacteria.  That’s where we come in.

Last week alone, we performed more than 1300 analyses for public bathing (pool) clients.  Learn what public pools are required to do, how we fit in, and why some pools fail the bacteria test.

Testing Requirements

All pools open to the public are required to have the pool water tested weekly to ensure it is maintaining standards.  The standards in Pennsylvania come from PA Code Ch. 18, and regulated by the PA Department of Health.  Swimming pools can have up to 2 coliform per sample, free chlorine must be at least 0.4 mg/L , and pH must be between 7.2-8.2.

Pools open to the public include year-round pools, not just your neighborhood community pool.  These include pools, spas, and sprinkler pads at hotels, community centers, and retirement communities.

Suburban Testing Labs analyzes pool water year-round.  Our field scientists analyze pH and chlorine onsite, collect a Total Coliform bacteria sample, and transport it back to our microbiology lab for analysis.  If a pool has an excess of bacteria beyond the allowable limit, we contact the client and health department to inform them of the result so corrections can be made.

Why A Pool May Fail

Coliform bacteria are a naturally occurring group of bacteria that indicate the potential presence of other harmful bacteria; even the best maintained pool might have a coliform failure from time to time.

Public Swimming Pool TestingThe most common problem with coliform bacteria is insufficient disinfectant.  The minimum required limit is 0.4mg/L, however the National Spa and Pool Institute recommends a disinfectant residual of 2-4mg/L for normal usage and 3-5mg/L for periods of heavy usage.

The next most common problem is contact time and pH.  Chlorine may require 20 minutes of contact time to completely kill coliform bacteria.  Chlorine also becomes less effective as pH increases.  It is important to have the right balance of both pH and chlorine for adequate disinfection.

Pools are a great way to beat the heat for folks of all ages, but it’s important that standards are met and monitored to ensure that public health is protected.  We are proud to support this part of the environmental protection industry.


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“Sooo hot. Need water.”

The dog days of summer are here.  As the temperature rises, so does our thirst.  If you’re like us, you’ve been upping your water intake to stay hydrated.  And if you drink water at a home, business, or restaurant, chances are we’ve been involved in the testing process.

2018 Drinking Water Testing at Suburban Testing Labs

Since January 1st of this year alone, we’ve performed more than 44,000 tests on over 20,000 samples for public water suppliers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.  For private well owners, we’ve analyzed more than 3,000 samples for more than 12,000 contaminants.

Our top test?  Total Coliform Bacteria easily tops the list with 18,381 tests performed in our microbiology lab.  This includes analysis for the presence of Total Coliform an E.Coli, and “Enumeration,” which gives a most probable number of bacteria present in the sample.

How Do I Know My Water Is Safe?

If you have a private well, the only way you can find out is to have your water tested on your own.

If you’re a customer of a community system public water supplier, you can find out by reviewing the annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) that is delivered in the mail each year.

CCRs are required disclosures for community water systems by US law, and must be provided to all customers by July 1st of each year.  Your CCR tells you your water source, levels of contaminants in your water source, and how that compares to EPA allowable limits.

What Happens When We See A Failing Sample?

From time-to-time a sample will exceed allowable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs).  Each state has specific Public Notification Requirements.  In Pennsylvania, for example, if there is a Total Coliform and E.coli positive sample, a Nitrate / Nitrite failure, or any other MCL exceedance, we must notify the public water supplier within 1 hour via telephone.  The public water supplier must then notify the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) within 1 hour, and notify the public within the timeframe specified by the law. For acute health risks, such as the presence of E.coli, they are required to notify the public within 24 hours.

Then, check samples are collected and analyzed within 24 hours to confirm the original result.

It is critical that laboratories, PWSs, and DEP quickly responds to MCL violations to correct the issue.

At Suburban Testing Labs, we take this responsibility seriously.  We understand the critical nature of drinking water analysis, and our team works 7 days a week to support the needs of our public water suppliers.   During these dog days of summer, as you’re increasing your water consumption, you can trust us – your experts in drinking water analysis.


We asked our staff: What are your favorite ways to stay fit during these hot #dogdaysofsummer?

Play golf as much as possible. I try to walk vs. riding in a cart as much as possible. On average, walking 18 holes of golf is approximately 5+ miles depending on the course.

Keith, Inorganic Chemistry and Microbiology Supervisor

Summer is the best time for me to get out and active with hiking activities. I love to work up a good sweat in the hilly terrain, and my two dogs are great hiking partners!

Beth, Sales Manager

Going to the gym every morning keeps the blood flowing during the workday! Hiking is another good one.

Jesse, Human Resources Generalist

Yoga is my favorite way to stay fit – in the air conditioning!!

Lindsay, Project Manager
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“I hope they tested this.”

We enjoy natural bodies of water for swimming, fishing, and boating.  How do we know it meets safety standards?

As an Environmental Testing Laboratory, a lot of non-potable water samples from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) come through our laboratory.  The treated water discharged by these facilities goes into our vast natural waterway system – our rivers, lakes and streams.  Testing this water to ensure it meets safety standards is critical.

WWTPs have state permitted analysis requirements that must be completed by an accredited laboratory.  In addition, public water supplies must often test untreated or “raw” water for harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and cryptosporidium.  We perform this analysis for our clients 365 days a year.

The public trusts that we are using the highest quality standards when analyzing these samples.  We understand that the results of our water testing are used to make important environmental decisions.  Trustworthy data quality is of utmost importance for us to meet that demand.

It’s Personal – A Dip Into A Local Lake

Blue Marsh Lake, Berks County, PA

Blue Marsh Lake, Berks County, PA

The health of all our regional bodies of water is important to us.  One happens to be in our backyard.

Our main laboratory is located five miles from Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and many of our employees use the lake for recreational activities all year long.  Owned and maintained by US Army Corps of Engineers, this lake benefits water control practices for the downstream communities of Reading, Birdsboro, Pottstown, Conshohocken and sections of Philadelphia.*

The lake is 1,150 acres and allows for a lot of recreational activities such as boating, fishing, swimming and hiking.  The lake is located on the Tulpehocken Creek, which is a tributary to the Schuylkill River within the Delaware River Basin.  The Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers are vast resources for drinking water supplies.

Chris Moyer, Field Scientist

The Creek was impounded in 1974 creating this 8-mile-long Lake, and there has been a total of 37 species of fish captured during surveys conducted by the PA Fish & Boat Commission.

We conduct various types of field analysis, sample collection, and laboratory testing for many different clients within this watershed.  It’s just one way we work to preserve the health of our local water environment, and our community.

To learn more about Blue Marsh Lake, visit the USACE website:

Moyer Collecting a Sample from Blue Marsh Lake


To learn more about our Field Services, Wastewater and Drinking Water Analysis, visit our website:

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Suburban Testing Labs flows between generations

Rich Stump in Reading EagleCompany uses technology to analyze water samples.

WRITTEN BY WES CIPOLLA of the Reading Eagle

BERN TOWNSHIP, PA — July 11, 2018

Rich Stump has always been in the family business.

When he was 7, he capped bottles at Suburban Testing Labs, then run by his father Rick.  Then he became a janitor, and worked his way up to buying Suburban in 2014, making him the sole owner of the company, which tests local water samples for lead, bacteria and carcinogens.

“Like all kids, I had a few moments where I didn’t want to,” Stump, 40, said about following in his dad’s footsteps, “but I thought it was the right opportunity for me. I always loved the science behind the business.”

Stump says he’s proud that the labs have lasted 55 years, through two generations.

In his tenure he has moved the labs from Temple to Bern Township and increased automation. That much is clear, as Suburban’s labs are filled with elaborate machines that handle test tubes of all shapes and sizes.

Will robots replace Suburban’s 78 employees someday?

“I don’t see that in this industry’s future,” Stump said, “again because of the complexity and number of steps. You still need a scientist to interpret the data.”

“We’re almost like manufacturing, where we’re coming out with results for different tests.” he said. “We have about a hundred different testing lines going on at once.”

First, the water is tested for pesticides. The materials are separated from the water using funnels and hot baths. Then the samples are taken to analysis machines and the data becomes lines on a computerized graph. Then the samples are taken to a room where plasma is heated to 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit to detect metals such as lead. The smell in these labs ranges from disinfectant to chlorine to roasted cocoa.

Someday, a new generation will take over for Stump. He wants to get his two children interested in science (his dog’s name is Einstein) and for 7-year-old Madison, it’s working.

“As long as they go on to become productive members of society and have a job that makes them happy,” Stump said about the possibility of them leaving the family business, “I would be fine with that.”

Companies such as Suburban provide a critical service, says the director of one Berks County water authority.

“I think that water testing is critical to public health and safety.” said Matt Wolborn, the director of operations of the Western Berks Water Authority. “Water testing is a barometer that shows us how we’re doing.”

Municipal water needs to be clean not just for consumers, but so it doesn’t enter streams as dangerous runoff. Wolborn, a third-generation water treater, said that the industry has a steady demand for jobs.

To Stump, a cancer survivor, the most important part of his job is giving people an opportunity to protect the water and soil from pollution.

“I lived through the ozone layer hole,” he said, “and we took small steps that were difficult, and now 20-some years later, the ozone layer has started to repair itself. So I don’t plan to move to Mars.”

Contact Wes Cipolla: 610-371-5066 or

View Article that Appeared in the Reading Eagle Newspaper Here:



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