The county's jail superintendent has asked a water quality testing laboratory to check the water leaking from a basement pipe to determine if it is sewage or fresh water.
The request comes after results of tests by the lab, Environmental Testing Lab Inc., were posted on an employee bulletin board last week with a note saying the results showed the pipes may carry sewage. The tests are to be conducted tomorrow.
Richard J. Baker, superintendent of the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, said the water leaking into a basement security office and a jail cell has been a long-standing problem at the 28-year-old jail. County plumbers and public works officials determined in previous tests that the leakage was fresh water, he said.
The tests tomorrow are being done as a precaution, he said. "I don't think there is a problem, but I just want to make sure," said Mr. Baker, who also said he does not know who posted the notice or who had the tests conducted.
The lab's director was unavailable last week.
Larry Luck, chief of food control and environmental health programs for the county Department of Health, said a cup of water the private lab tested last week showed trace levels of E. coli bacteria, which are commonly found in sewage.
The levels were so low it was unlikely the water was sewage, he said. The sample showed four parts per 100 milliliters of E. coli. Water from most sewer pipes would contain from 20,000 to 50,000 parts per 100 milliliters, he said.
"My professional opinion is that it was definitely not water from a sewer line," Mr. Luck said.
The sample the private lab tested was apparently hand-carried to the lab by a jail employee and could have been contaminated, said Mr. Luck. Mr. Baker said the private lab tests cost about $50.