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Coliform Bacteria Testing

coliform bacteria test kit

It is estimated that more than 13 million households rely on private wells for drinking water in the United States. As the USEPA does not regulate or provide standards for individual wells, the owners of private wells are solely responsible for the safety of their water. 

Coliform bacteria are found in the environment and feces of all warm-blooded animals including humans. There are many types of coliform bacteria and most don’t cause illness. However, their presence in your well water indicates that disease-causing organisms (pathogens) could be in the water supply.

Frequency of Testing

Testing for bacteria is the only reliable way to know if your water is safe. You cannot tell by the look, taste, or smell of the water if disease-causing organisms are in it. At a minimum, check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems, and test it once a year for coliform bacteria. If you suspect other contaminants, test for those as well. You should also test if:

health metric well water test kit  There are known problems with well water in your area.

health metric well water test kit  You have experienced problems near your well, like flooding and land disturbances.

health metric well water test kit  You replace or repair any part of your well system.

health metric well water test kit   You notice a change in water quality such as taste, color, and odor.

health metric well water test kit   Whenever the well is inundated by flood waters or surface runoff.

Potential Health Effects

Water pollution caused by fecal contamination is a serious problem due to the potential for contracting diseases from pathogens. For example, E. coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacterium E. coli. Although most strains are harmless, this can cause severe illness with symptoms including severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps. It should be noted that these symptoms are common to a variety of diseases, and may be caused by sources other than contaminated drinking water.

The Health Metric Bacteria Test Kits are made in the USA, utilizing the EPA-approved testing method. This makes the results easy to compare and act upon accordingly. The test kits are simple enough for anyone to use and find out if your water contains coliform bacteria (including E. coli) within just 48 hours.

Helpful Resources and Downloads


For further information, a great resource for private well owners can be found on the official EPA webpage. 

Frequently Asked Questions 


Coliform bacteria are present in the environment and feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans.

There are many different kinds of coliform bacteria. Most coliform bacteria are harmless. However, fecal coliform (E. coli) is a type of coliform bacteria and is a health hazard.

Coliform are not naturally found in groundwater. Their presence indicates there is a problem someplace in the water supply. Common causes include:

- Cracks and holes in the well cover

- Cracked well pipe

- Recent work on the water distribution system leading to the home

- Repairs made to the well or home’s plumbing system

- Septic system or animal waste is close to the well

- Contaminated faucet aerator or water filter

The kit is a Presence/Absence test for coliform bacteria. The test will show if coliform bacteria are in the water.
E. coli is one of the coliform bacteria strains. If E. coli is in the water, the test will detect it and show a positive result. If coliform bacteria are found in your water supply, it is an indication that the disease-causing coliform, E. coli, could get in the same way.

The bottle contains a special nutrient blend. When a water sample if added, the nutrients dissolve, turning the water purple/magenta.  If coliform bacteria are in the water, they’ll consume the nutrients. When this happens, the water in the bottle turns bright yellow within 48 hours of starting the test.

Yes. The kit works with well and municipal water supplies.
The water in the bottle will turn bright yellow after 48 hours if kept at 70-77°F (21-25° C).

Consult with your Board of Health or a water treatment professional. Typically, if coliform bacteria are found, a lab should perform a second test to look for E. coli or Fecal Coliform. These bacteria indicate that your water supply has come in contact with human or animal waste, which has a very high risk for transmitting disease.

The test works by the activity of bacteria in the water. Cold conditions slow down the bacteria and can lead to inaccurate results. For best results, run the 48-hour incubation period at a temperature of 70-77°F (21-25° C).
The test should be viewed after 48 hours, then discarded. The bottle may turn yellow after 48 hours, but the results are invalid.

The test follows EPA guidelines for sampling water for coliform testing.

No. E. coli don’t survive very well in seawater. A different test method is used to screen beaches and ocean water.

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