Bacteria in drinking water have been an issue in the United States for many years. That is how typhoid fever became a major problem from the 1920s to the 1960s. Officials were able to get control of those particular bacteria, but this made room for others to take their place. Currently, it looks as if coliform bacteria are becoming more prevalent within the water supply, and there have been several outbreaks of disease because of it. There is reason to be concerned if you obtain your water from the public system, but you are not free from worry if you have a private well. Now may be the time for you to have your water tested to find out what might be hiding in your water supply.
What Type of Bacteria Are Commonly Found in Drinking Water?
Everyone who has a private well will want to know what type of bacteria exists in their drinking water. Total coliform bacteria are one type of bacteria in well water. They were considered to be an indication of fecal contamination, but they are now thought to be relatively harmless and prevalent throughout the environment on their own.
Fecal coliform is another type of bacteria, and their numbers multiply in warmer waters. If fecal coliform is present in the water, this means that it is contaminated with the fecal matter of an animal.
Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, are of particular concern. When they are present, there is definitely fecal contamination of the water source.
Where Does Bacteria Come From in Well Water?
Bacteria exist within the soil and plant life, and well water becomes contaminated by it from other water sources. For example, bacteria in well water appears when water makes its way through septic tanks, pastures, sewage plants, feedlots and wooded areas, and ends up in your well.
How to Test for Bacteria in Your Water
You can have an outside laboratory test your water for bacteria for you. With this option, you will need to take a sample of your water, and send it to the lab of your choice. A plastic bottle is a convenient way to transport the water to the lab, but make sure that you do not wash the bottle before you fill it. Residue from the soap could remain on the bottle, and this will prevent you from receiving a completely accurate test.
The sample should not come from a filter, and it should not be softened. You will want to fill the bottle all the way to the top so that there isn’t any air left in the bottle. Then, you may ship it to the lab. Laboratories can screen your water for everything that is generally known to reside within water that shouldn’t be there.
There are also do-it-yourself water testing kits. When you use an at home test, you will take a sample of the water, swish the water back and forth and then set the sample down for at least 24 hours. After that time period is up, you will observe the results.
After four hours have passed, you will need to check your sample. You will do this again after 12 hours and then again after 24 hours have passed. If the water turns red, this means that your water is contaminated with bacteria. If your sample started to turn red very early, this means that your water has a large number of bacteria. If it takes a long time for the water to change color, the bacterial infestation is less severe.
What Are Safe Bacteria Levels in Drinking Water?
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates drinking water for contaminants such as the ones that have been mentioned in this article. The EPA does not allow any contamination by total coliforms. These bacteria are not harmful to humans, but their presence can mean that there are other unhealthy bacteria in the water source.
Health Issues with Coliform in Water
If your water is contaminated, one of the first indications of this fact will be the presence of coliform in the water. A significant infestation of coliform bacteria could mean that there is something in the water that could possibly make you sick. There may also be viruses, protozoa and parasites within the water.
E. coli is a member of the coliform group, and it can cause you to become very sick. If you contract this disease, you will experience vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. This disease is also known to cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections and respiratory illnesses.
Having a test done on your water is a fairly simple task. If you are at all concerned about what may be in your water, it would be a good idea to schedule a test as soon as possible.