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For more than 135 years, Aqua – owned by Essential Utilities - has been protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource, water. Today, they provide clean, safe, and reliable water and wastewater services to more than 3 million people in eight states.

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Aqua's Dedications to Communities


Provides drinking water to 3 million people


Treats more than 82 billion gallons of water each year


Provide wastewater service to more than 200,000 people


Treats more than 114 million gallons of wastewater daily



At Aqua, we know that water is a precious resource – one that plays a critical role in sustaining life. We take seriously our responsibility to protect and provide this essential resource. We are committed to sustainable business practices; excellent customer service; attracting and developing top talent; the strategic growth of the company; delivering shareholder value; investing in technology and infrastructure; and giving back in the communities we operate. We do all these with integrity and transparency.

Interview with Aqua Team

In the world of essential services, Aqua has emerged as a stalwart guardian of communities' well-being through its extensive history and experience in providing reliable water and wastewater services across the United States. Partnered closely with Aqua, PromoChrom has orchestrated collaborations in various water testing applications, spanning critical areas such as PFAS and 1,4-dioxane detection. Today, we are privileged to cast a spotlight on Aqua's pivotal contributions by engaging in an interview with their accomplished team, led by their supervisor, Michelle Ashman. This interview offers a profound exploration of their invaluable insights, touching upon their experiences with the SPE-03 Automated System, and showcasing their resolute dedication to enhancing water quality standards.

Organic Lab Supervisor at Aqua Lab

Michelle Ashman 
Organic Lab Supervisor

What are the range of applications and those involving SPE at Aqua?

At Aqua’s state-accredited environmental laboratory in Bryn Mawr, Pa., we analyze drinking water and wastewater samples for over 30 methods. Two of those methods utilize a SPE extraction technique: EPA method 537 for PFAS and EPA method 522 for 1,4-dioxane. SPE is a key component of our industry leading PFAS response, which we launched in 2017 and have continued to upgrade our tools and capacity levels.

Applications using SPE


EPA method 537



EPA method 522

What are the types of extraction and challenges that Aqua have?

Water samples from Aqua mounting on the SPE-03

The bulk of our SPE analysis is extracting Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) samples. Currently the samples extracted consist of a variety of matrices such as drinking water, surface water and ground water. Due to our strong commitment to address PFAS in the communities we serve, our biggest challenge—which we’ve met—is keeping up with the ever-increasing sample load and stringent quality controls measures.

Water samples 

What made you choose the SPE-03 initially?

Our older automated extractors had been discontinued by the manufacturer. Knowing the challenges and time-consuming process of manual extraction, we began the search for a new automated system. We were quickly drawn to the SPE-03 because we wanted to decrease our extraction time and maximize our capacity.

3 SPE-03 automated spe system at Aqua Lab

SPE-03 systems at Aqua lab

How has the SPE-03 helped?

Aqua's comparison of Manual extraction with the SPE-03 automated extractor

The SPE-03 extractors have helped tremendously in our PFAS response, reducing extraction batch time from a tedious manual operation to an automated process – decreasing from 6 hours to just under 2 hours. This time savings allows us to run more than one analysis batch in a day and is instrumental to our response.

Any metrics such as sample throughput and time-savings?

Last year we analyzed 2,000 PFAS samples using EPA method 537.

SPE-03 automated spe system at Aqua Organic Lab
Image by Linus Nylund

Michelle Ashman 
Organic Lab Supervisor


"The SPE-03 extractors have helped tremendously in our PFAS response, reducing extraction batch time from a tedious manual operation to an automated process – decreasing from 6 hours to just under 2 hours."

Michelle Ashman_Organic Lab Supervisor

 Aqua Organic Lab

What are some of the notable achievements by Aqua?

Aqua has taken an industry-leading approach to addressing PFAS in our communities, and our lab has been a cornerstone of that effort. We began testing the compounds in 2017 and in 2020, we set our own limit on PFAS exposure in the systems we manage.  At that time, the EPA health advisory was 70 parts per trillion; we set our own limit at 13 parts per trillion.


We’ve been building treatment facilities and treating water that exceeds 13 parts per trillion since then. We include PFAS testing as part of our regular operations now – and will begin the work to treat water to the EPA’s new proposed federal limit. 

the organic lab team at Aqua America

The organic lab team at Aqua

Water Drops

What will be the future developments at your lab?

With the EPA proposing a maximum contamination level (MCL) and a Hazard index for 6 PFAS compounds, and our commitment to transparently report PFAS testing results across our footprint in 2023, we anticipate the number of samples that we will be analyzing to increase significantly. The consistency in extractions and time efficiencies with the SPE-03 plays a key role in continuing to meet the analytical requirements and the detection limits that are required. 

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