Coliform Bacteria in Water - Effects, Presence, Testing and Precautionary Measures

January 21, 2022

Coliform Bacteria in Water - Effects, Presence, Testing and Precautionary Measures

What are coliform bacteria, and what do they do?

All warm-blooded animals and humans have coliform bacteria in their surroundings and excrement. Coliform germs aren't likely to get you sick. Their existence in drinking water, on the other hand, suggests the presence of disease-causing organisms (pathogens) in the water system. The majority of diseases that might contaminate water sources come from human or animal excrement. It's difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to test drinking water for all conceivable pathogens. Coliform bacteria testing is simple and affordable. If coliform bacteria is detected in a water sample, water systems investigate the cause of contamination and restore clean drinking water.

Coliform bacteria are divided into three categories. Each one is a distinct level of danger and an indicator of drinking water quality. The term "total coliform" refers to a vast collection of bacteria of various types. Fecal coliforms are total coliform kinds found in faeces. E. coli is a kind of faecal coliform bacteria. Total coliform is measured in drinking water samples by laboratories. The lab will analyse the sample for E. coli if total coliform is detected.

Total coliform bacteria are found in abundance in the environment (soil or plants) and are normally non-pathogenic. If only total coliform bacteria are detected in drinking water, the cause is most likely environmental, and faecal contamination is improbable. However, germs might penetrate the system if ambient pollution is allowed to enter. It's critical to identify and eliminate the source of the contamination.

Fecal coliform bacteria are a kind of coliform bacteria found in the faeces. They can be found in both human and animal intestines and faeces. The faecal coliform group includes E. coli as a subgroup. The majority of E. coli bacteria are non-pathogenic and may be found in the intestines of humans and warm-blooded animals. Some strains, though, can cause sickness. When E. coli is found in a drinking water sample, it typically means there has been recent faecal contamination. This indicates that germs are more likely to be present.

E.coli outbreaks garner a lot of attention in the media. The majority of the outbreaks are caused by a type of E. coli bacterium known as E. coli O157:H7. The presence of E. coli in a drinking water sample does not always imply the presence of O157:H7. It does, however, suggest recent faecal contamination. All strains of E. coli, including O157:H7, are destroyed by boiling or disinfecting contaminated drinking water.


What happens if coliform bacteria are discovered in my drinking water?

When coliform bacteria is discovered in water, water systems must investigate to determine how the contamination entered the system. They take more water samples and often evaluate the entire system. Obtaining more samples can assist in determining whether or not a problem exists. The original findings are "confirmed" if the lab finds bacteria in any of the further samples.

What if my water tests positive for total coliform bacteria?

If a test verifies the presence of total coliform bacteria in your drinking water, your water system must undertake an investigation to determine how the contamination entered the system. If the cause of the pollution is determined, the water system must resolve the issue through repairs, treatment, or better operation and maintenance procedures.

What happens if E. coli is found in my water?

The presence of E. coli in a water system suggests recent faecal contamination, which might represent a health risk to anyone who drinks it. Drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth should all be done with boiling or bottled water.
More water samples may be taken to identify and remove potential contamination sources, and a system that hasn't been disinfected in a long time will most likely be chlorinated and flushed. The health advice will stay in force until the problem has been rectified and the water has been determined to be safe to drink.

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