Published: January 15, 2013

    Bacteria – The hidden truth

    Bacteria In My Drinking WaterMunicipalities and County Water Districts all over the United States are required to provide safe drinking water for the consumers living in their areas. One of the most important concerns with regards to the drinking water being delivered to the consumer’s home is the detection of bacteria in the water. While there are many types of bacteria that may present themselves in the water source, the most common and widely tested for are coliform bacteria.

    Coliform bacteria are micro-organisms that are present in the environment and in the fecal matter of all warm-blooded animals and humans. The good news is that coliform bacteria itself is not likely to cause illness to humans. The news of caution however, is that the presence of coliform bacteria in your drinking water supply could be an indicator of disease causing organisms known as pathogens. The majority of pathogens that can result in contamination and harmful effects to our drinking water come from humans and animals. So you may be asking yourself, “why is my city testing for coliform instead of pathogens?” Well the answer to that, COST! In terms of conducting test for coliform, E. coli and fecal coliform, the cost is relatively low. However, conducting pathogen specific testing is very expensive, time consuming and much more complex.

    When total coliform bacteria are detected in your municipal water source, the treatment facility will conduct additional testing and inspections to detect and eliminate the source of contamination. The EPA requires that the consumer be notified within 30 days of the detection and what steps are being taken to resolve any concerns. There is always an immediate health concern anytime fecal coliform and/or E. coli are detected in the drinking water supply. Thus, municipalities and water treatment facilities are required to execute an urgent health advisory within 24 hours to alert consumers of the risks.

    When detectable levels of total coliform, fecal coliform and E. Coli are present, treatment facilities will generally increase their chlorination process and repeatedly flush their treatment systems until testing verifies the absence of the bacteria. If you interested in reviewing how your local treatment facility has been guarding against bacteria and pathogens, take a look online. Most municipalities and treatment facilities offer their annual water quality reports online. Simply Google the name of your city and the words “water quality report.” If you are unable to locate the report online, contact your city hall of local water treatment facility to request a copy of their most recent water quality report.