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    Bacteria

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    Coliform Bacteria

    What is coliform bacteria and where does it come from?

    Coliform bacteria are microscopic organisms. They originate in the intestinal tract of      
    warm blooded animals and may also be found in soil and vegetation.

    Human Influences that cause an increase in coliform bacteria:

     
    • Most coliform bacteria enter streams or rivers through direct deposition of waste in the water and runoff from areas with high concentrations of animals. Domesticated animals contribute heavily to bacterial pollution.
    • Runoff from woodlands, septic tanks, and sewage plants may cause an increase in coliform and other bacterial pollution.

    Why care about coliform bacteria?

    Health Concerns--
    Total coliform bacteria is generally harmless. However, coliforms indicate that disease causing bacteria (viruses or parasites) may be present. The water may be contaminated with sewage or similar wastes. Diseases which may be present in water that tests positive for coliform bacteria include:
    • typhoid fever
    • cholera
    • hepatitis
    • dysentery
    • giardiasis
    • hemolytic uremic syndrome

    Drinking Water Information

    How do I find out if there is coliform in my water?

    If you rely on a public water system, then your water is tested often for coliform bacteria and other pollutants. If any coliforms are found in a public water supply, the supplier is required to notify the public within 24 hours. With this notification, you will be instructed on how to treat your water until the public water system is cleaned and tests free of coliforms. Most water companies will send out an annual Consumer Confidence Report which discloses contaminants found, possible health effects, and the water’s source. This report is generally sent in July with your water bill. If you do not receive a report, contact your water company for this information.

    If you have a private water system (private well) then you are responsible to ensure your drinking water is safe for human consumption. Test for coliform at least once a year. Also test your water if you have a new well or pump installed, or if there are any environmental changes that might affect your well, such as flooding or a new feedlot operation near your well. To test for coliform bacteria contact a certified testing lab near you. A coliform test will cost approximately $10-30.

    What is the drinking water standard for coliform?

    The established standard for bacteria in drinking water includes total coliforms, fecal coliforms, and E. coli. Municipalities that collect less than 40 total coliform samples per month may have no more than one sample that tests positive. Those collecting over 40 samples per month are required to have no more than 5% test positive. No samples should test positive for fecal coliform or E. coli. There is no standard for private wells, nor is any testing required, which means the owners of private wells must test their own water.

    How can I treat water that contains coliforms?

    In a public water system if coliform is found, the supplier will notify users within 24 hours and will immediately disinfect the water supply by putting chlorine into the system. If certain types of coliform bacteria have been found the water supplier may issue a "Boil Order" notice. This means the decontaminating and re-testing of the water supply may take several days, during which you should boil all water for several minutes before any uses that involve ingestion. Follow the instructions provided by the water supplier. 

    If you find coliform bacteria in your private well system the first thing you will need to do is determine whether the source of contamination is in the well or inside your home in the water system. Test the well itself (or as close to the well as possible). If it contains coliforms the well is contaminated, if not, then the source of contamination is probably in the plumbing system. If the results from the water from the well return as uncontaminated, but the tap water results read as contaminated, the contamination source may be an inadequately maintained treatment system. Charcoal filters, and many other point-of-use systems at the faucet or in a refrigerator water system can harbor bacteria. To avoid this filters should be maintained and replaced according to the manufacturer's directions. Other possible sources of contamination may be cross connection with irrigation water or back siphonage (reverse flow) from garden hoses.

    Consider possible contamination sources (e.g., faulty septic system, storm runoff, livestock waste runoff). Correct these problems, if practical, before installing permanent water treatment equipment. Well water can be treated by "shock chlorination". This method circulates a strong chlorine solution throughout your water system. It may also remove biological material collecting in your plumbing system. For more information about well water and coliform bacteria view the fact sheet Coliform Bacteria.

    Escherichia coli (E. coli)

    Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli) is a single species in the fecal coliform group. It is a bacterium that is found in the intestines of humans and other warm blooded animals. E. coli does not occur naturally in soil and vegetation. It will only enter water from fecal contamination.

    Why care about E. coli?

    According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) E. coli is the best indicator of health risk from water contact in recreational waters. The presence of E. coli in water is an indication of recent contamination from sewage or animal wastes, which may have many disease-causing organisms. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, E. coliO157:H7 is a cause of foodborne and waterborne illness. This strain was first recognized as a source of illness in 1982, when people were getting sick from it in ground beef. Since then, most infections have been from undercooked ground beef, but some have gone waterborne.

    What are some health concerns of E. coli in water?

    Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, E. coli O157:H7 is one that causes serious illness by producing a powerful toxin. Symptoms of infection usually take 2 to 4 days to appear, but may take as many as 8 days. Symptoms often include severe diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and abdominal cramps. However, these symptoms are common to a variety of diseases and E. coli O157:H7 may not be the cause of infection. In some people (children under 5 and the elderly particularly) an infection can cause a complication referred to as hemolytic uremic syndrome. In this syndrome red blood cells are destroyed and kidneys fail. Approximately 2%-7% of infections lead to this complication. It is a life-threatening condition that usually needs to be treated in an intensive care unit.

    How is E. coli monitored?

    Drinking Water
    If you rely on a public water system, the USEPA requires these systems to monitor for coliform bacteria. Total coliform is analyzed first because the test produces results faster. Any sample that comes back positive for total coliform must be analyzed for either fecal coliform or E. coli, which indicate contamination of animal waste or human sewage.

    Most water companies will send out an annual Consumer Confidence Report which discloses contaminants found, possible health effects, and the water’s source. This report is generally sent in July with your water bill. If you do not receive a report, contact your water company for this information.

    If you have a private water system please see the section, How do I find out if there is coliform in my water?

     

    Natural Water

    The Utah Division of Water Quality (UDWQ) has a monitoring program for E. coli. Unfortunately it is impossible to test all waters where people may recreate because monitoring resources are limited. Hence, E. coli monitoring is focused on places where most people recreate. In Utah there are 31 lakes and reservoirs that have been identified as highly recreated bodies of water and are currently being monitored for E. coli. Sampling of these bodies of water occurs from May through September each year. In the future UDWQ intends to sample every lake and reservoir in the state.
     
    USU Water Quality Extension and the Utah Division of Water Quality partnered up to create a program called Utah Water Watch (UWW). This program is a water quality education and data collection program that seeks to increase awareness about the importance of water quality and promote stewardship of Utah's aquatic resources. As part of this program volunteers monitor bacteria. For more information about this program and how to become a volunteer monitor click here.
     

    Bacteriological testing labs in Utah:

     

    Box Elder County
     
    BRIGHAM CITY LAB
    Richard Mickelsen
    675 North 1175 West, Brigham City, UT 84302
    Phone No.: (435) 723-3146
     
    TREMONTON WTP LAB
    Jon Miller
    300 East 1200 South, Tremonton, UT 84337
    Phone No.: (435) 257-9472
     
    Cache County
     
    BEAR RIVER DIST HLTH DEPT. LAB
    Dr. Ed Redd
    655 East 1300 North, Logan, UT 84341
    Phone No.: (435) 792-6580
     
    Carbon County
     
    SE UTAH DIST. HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    David Cunningham, Health Officer, 
    28 South 100 East, Price, UT 84501
    Phone No.: (435) 637-3671
     
    Davis County
     
    DAVIS CNTY. HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    Dee Jette
    99 South Main Street, Farmington, UT 84025
    Phone No.: (801) 451-3296
     
    NORTH DAVIS COUNTY SEWER DIST. LAB
    Ken Burgener
    4252 West 2200 South, Syracuse, UT 84075
    Phone No.: (801) 728-6825
     
    WEBER BASIN WATER QUALITY LAB (NP)
    Brad Nelson
    2837 East Highway 193, Layton, UT 84040
    Phone No.: (801) 771-4362
     
    Duchesne County
     
    DUCHESNE VALLEY WATER TREATMENT PLANT
    Joe Williford
    P.O. Box 912 Starvation Reservoir, Duchesne, UT 84021
    Phone No.: (435) 738-5725
     
    Iron County
     
    SOUTHERN UTAH UNIVERSITY WATER LAB
    Jory Ty Redd
    351 West Center Street, Science Building Room 206, Cedar City, UT 84720
    Phone No.: (435) 586-7914
     
    CEDAR CITY REGIONAL WATER TREATMENT PLANT LABORATORY
    Andrew Oko
    7218 North 2300 West, Cedar City, UT 84720
    Phone No.: (435) 247-1160
     
    Salt Lake County
     
    CENTRAL VALLEY WATER RECLAMATION LAB
    Anthony G. Daw
    800 West Central Valley Road, South Salt Lake, UT 84119
    Phone No.: (801) 973-9100
     
    CHEMTECH/FORD CHEMICAL LAB
    David Gayer
    6100 South Stratler Avenue, Murray, UT 84107-6905
    Phone No.: (801) 262-7299
     
    JORDAN VALLEY WTP
    Te Van Phan
    15305 South 3200 West, Bluffdale, UT 84065
    Phone No.: (801) 446-2051
     
    METROPOLITAN WATER DIST. LAB
    Claudia Wheeler
    3430 East Danish Road, Sandy, UT 84093-2102
    Phone No.: (801) 942-9654
     
    UTAH DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DIVISION OF LAB SERVICES
    4431 South 2700 West, Taylorville, UT 84119-8600
    Phone No.: (801) 965-2400
     
    Sevier County
     
    CENTRAL UTAH DIST HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    John Vercor, LEHS
    70 Westview Drive, Richfield, UT 84701-1868
    Phone No.: (435) 896-5451
     
    Summit County
     
    SUMMIT COUNTY HEALTH DEPT. LAB
    Roy E. Dixon
    85 North 50 East, P.O. Box 128, Coalville, UT 84017
    Phone No.: (435) 336-3222
     
    Uintah County
     
    ASHLEY VALLEY WTP LAB
    Brad Grammer
    3550 North 2500 West, Vernal, UT 84078
    Phone No.: (435) 789-0421
     
    TRI COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT ENVIRONMENTAL LABORATORY
    Darrin Brown, Env. Director
    133 South 500 East Vernal, UT 84078
    Phone No.: (435) 247-1160
     
    Utah County
     
    PROVO WATER RESOURCES LAB
    Michael Scheetz
    1685 South 350 East, Provo, UT 84606
    Phone No.: (801) 852-6796
     
    RICHARDS LABS
    Dean Richards
    45 North 100 East, Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
    Phone No.: (801) 785-2500
     
    TIMPVIEW ANALYTICAL LABS
    Dee M. Freeman
    1165 North 1600 West
    Orem, UT 84057
    Phone No.: (801) 229-2282
     
    UTAH VALLEY WTP LAB
    Monica Hoyt
    1120 East Cascade Drive, Orem, UT 84097
    Phone No.: (801) 221-0192
     
    Wasatch County
     
    JORDANELLE LABORATORY
    Shane Paddock
    10500 North 1420 West, P.O. Box 519, Heber City, UT 84032
    Phone No.: (435) 333-0475
     
    Washington County
     
    GEORGE RWRF LAB
    Leslie Wentland
    3780 South 1550 West St. George, UT 84790
    Phone No.: (435) 634-5849
     
    Weber County
     
    EARTH NET CONSULTING, INC.
    William Reyns
    3930 Washington Blvd. Country Club Complex, Suite A South Ogden, UT 84403-1873
    Phone No.: (801) 621-5510