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August 12, 2011

ULM Soil-Plant Analysis Lab: serving university and region since 1979

Water is one of the most essential resources of everyday life, but most of us never think about what it takes to ensure that the water we use is safe, and free of harmful chemicals.

One place that strives to insure the quality of local water systems is the University of Louisiana at Monroe Soil-Plant Analysis Laboratory.

The lab has been located on the ULM campus since 1979, and began as a soil and plant testing resource for local and regional farmers.

As the presence of farming in the region faded, the needs of the region shifted. A vast majority of the lab's time is now spent analyzing wastewater samples.

"We've had to evolve with the environmental changes," said Terri Lancaster, director the Soil-Plant Analysis Lab.

"Only about five percent of our samples are soil-plant related now."

Lancaster, lab director since 2010 and employee since 1992, has witnessed the metamorphosis of the lab. Because of this transformation, the lab has grown to become one of Northeast Louisiana's only accredited wastewater analysis laboratories.

"It is the lab's constant goal to respond to the analytical needs of each client in a professional, accurate and timely manner," Lancaster continued. "We test the levels of possible contaminants that are discharged by companies."

Laboratory clientele include a diversified range of individuals, municipalities and local industries, as well as state and federal agencies.

According to Lancaster, Bayou DeSiard is also tested at 12 different locations every month from the ULM Library to Bayou Bartholomew in Sterlington.

Bayou DeSiard is the primary source for Monroe's drinking water. Although the number of soil samples has decreased over the years, the lab still receives enough to keep the staff on their toes.

"We get quite a few community members, faculty, and staff who bring in their own soil and plant samples for us to analyze," said Lancaster.

"We also test the ULM football and baseball fields, area golf courses, wildlife food plots, and give landscapers fertilizer recommendations for their lawn and garden."

The lab's popularity has grown through word of mouth, and the lab staff receive up to 75 water and soil samples per day, demonstrating that the lab serves the environmental needs of not only the university, but the vast majority of northeast Louisiana.

For questions about the ULM Soil-Plant Analysis Laboratory, contact Lancaster at 318-342-1948 or visit the lab's Web site at

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