Published on New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center (

Environmental Biology

As the EPA-designated reference laboratory for NY State, the Environmental Biology Laboratory analyzes water samples submitted by state agencies and local health departments for organisms indicative of fecal pollution (thermotolerant coliforms, E. coli, enterococci) and overall water quality (heterotrophic bacteria, total coliforms).  

Analysis/Tests Routinely Performed
  • *Total coliforms, thermotolerant coliforms, E. coli in potable and non-potable waters
  • *Heterotrophic bacteria in potable waters
  • *Enterococci in recreational waters
  • *Cryptosporidium, Giardia using EPA Method 1623
  • Microscopical identification/enumeration of phytoplankton, zooplankton
  • Microscopical particulate analysis
  • Cyanobacterial toxins
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Rapid detection methods (real time PCR)

*The laboratory is accredited as EPA NY00047; ELAP 10765; Florida DOH E37909 for analysis of potable and non-potable waters, as applicable.

The laboratory responds to public health emergencies, analyzing samples for waterborne pathogens such as Ps. aeruginosa, legionellae, pathogenic protozoa and Mycobacterium avium complex and additionally tests medical marijuana for microbial contaminants. 

Proficiency Testing: The laboratory produces and validates Water Bacteriology Proficiency Tests for NYS ELAP in late April and mid-October.  Full-volume, aqueous samples are used to test the ability of a laboratory to identify bacterial indicator organisms in potable and non-potable waters using approved technologies.  A complete test panel comprises 16 samples.  Additional information and applications can be found at the New York State Environmental Laboratory Approval Program[1].
Academic Programs: Laboratory staff are active members in the Environmental Health Sciences Department at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health.  Laboratory graduates have exciting careers as college professors, regulators in NYS government and in research at state and federal laboratories.   
Research and Development: The development of rapid and accurate methods for the detection of waterborne pathogens or their indicators prior to the outbreak of disease is a major research focus in this laboratory.  Recent research projects include the upregulation of virulence genes in symbiotically associated V. cholerae non-O1; the development of detection methods for artificial sweeteners to bolster the microbial source tracking toolbox, and the validations of qPCR-based methods for the rapid detection of waterborne enterococci, E. coli, and toxic cyanobacteria impacting New York State recreational waters.