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Testing Your Water for E. Coli

Chances are you’ve seen or heard news of an E. coli outbreak on your local news at some point in the recent past. The coverage was more than likely announcing a recall of a specific grocer’s compromised produce or meats. However, what many of these news stories fail to mention is that E. coli contamination is not limited solely to food — harmful E. coli bacteria can be found in your tap water as well.

In fact, a recent National Geographic study found coliform bacteria were the most common contaminants found in public school drinking water. E. coli poses a very serious health threat. If you think your tap water may contain these harmful bacteria, you should start taking precautions and testing your water immediately. 

What Are E. Coli?

Coliform bacteria exist naturally in the environment and in the gut of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. E. coli is a specific subgroup of fecal coliform bacteria. Most E. coli bacteria are relatively harmless, but several strains can cause severe illness in humans.

The presence of E. coli in a sample of water is an indicator that recent fecal contamination has probably occurred. Even if the E. coli itself doesn’t cause illness, it is likely that other viruses, bacteria, and pathogens are present in the contaminated water sample.

Health Concerns of E. Coli

Coliform bacteria in your drinking water is a serious issue — ingesting even a miniscule amount can lead to health problems. There are hundreds of strains of E. coli, and only certain strains are toxic. Depending on the type of E. coli bacteria you ingest, you can expect to experience any number of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dehydration
  • Respiratory issues
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Pneumonia

Young children, seniors, and pregnant women are more adversely affected by E. coli contamination. If you become infected with E. coli, you should rest as much as possible, drink more water than usual, and visit your doctor if symptoms become severe.

Causes of E. Coli Contamination

How does E. coli get into your drinking water? Environmental factors and the design of your area’s infrastructure can facilitate E. coli contamination. Likely methods of E. coli drinking water contamination include:

  • Agricultural practices like spreading manure or fertilizer on fields during rainy periods, or allowing livestock to water in streams
  • Human waste from overloaded septic tanks draining into ditches and nearby waterways
  • Sewers overflowing during high rainfall, bypassing filtration and directly entering a river system
  • Runoff during storms carrying animal waste to streams from parking lots, yards, and roads
  • Mammals or birds discharging directly into rivers and other waterways

E. coli cannot be detected by taste, smell, or sight. The only way to know if your drinking water contains E. coli or other coliform bacteria is to conduct a water test.

Why You Should Be Testing Your Water for E. Coli

Private wells are more susceptible to E. coli contamination, especially shallow wells that were dug in areas with frequent flooding. Private wells are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and if well owners want peace of mind they should conduct regular water testing.

How to Test Your Water for E. Coli

Simple at-home water tests can determine if your water contains coliform bacteria. Our Pelican 16-Point Rapid Water Test will quantify the levels of total coliform bacteria along with other worrisome contaminants like chlorides, tannins, nitrate, and arsenic.

Follow the instructions on your kit to gather a water sample for testing. Return your kit to the testing location indicated in the instructions — once we receive your sample you will have your results within 3-5 business days. Results are emailed directly to you so you can take action if needed.

Treating Your Water for E. Coli

Even powerful filters like our 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System are not able to reduce all bacteria in your water. Keep your family safe from illness by investing in a Whole House Filter With UV.

UV treatment destroys an astonishing 99.9% of bacteria and other microorganisms in your drinking water without affecting the taste, color, or odor. Coliform bacteria, E. coli, cryptosporidium, and other organisms will no longer pose a threat to your family’s health. Learn more about destroying coliform bacteria in your water on our education page.

For well water that contains E. coli, we recommend homeowners first test their water quality to determine the turbidity and level of contamination. After testing, a properly-sized UV System with a dose of 40 mJ/cm2 can protect families against E. coli. This treatment will also require you to chlorine shock the lines in your home to guarantee all lines in your home system are disinfected. Call us today at 877-207-7380 for more information.