Understanding your reports- Feacal Coliforms

What is it?

Feacal Coliform  is a facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped, gram-negative, non-sporulating bacterium.  Increased levels of fecal coliforms provide a warning of failure in water treatment, a break in the integrity of the distribution system, possible contamination with pathogens. When levels are high there may be an elevated risk of waterborne gastroenteritis.

How does it affect the environment?

  • Untreated organic matter that contains fecal coliform can be harmful to the environment. Aerobic decomposition of this material can reduce dissolved oxygen levels if discharged into rivers or waterways. This may reduce the oxygen level enough to kill fish and other aquatic life.
  • Large quantities of fecal coliform bacteria in water may indicate a higher risk of pathogens being present in the water.
  • Some waterborne pathogenic diseases that may coincide with fecal coliform contamination include ear infections, dysentery, typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, and hepatitis A. The presence of fecal coliform tends to affect humans more than it does aquatic creatures, though not exclusively.

How can it be reduced?

  • Reduction of fecal coliform in wastewater may require the use of chlorine and other disinfectant chemicals. Such materials may kill the fecal coliform and disease bacteria. They also kill bacteria essential to the proper balance of the aquatic environment, endangering the survival of species dependent on those bacteria. So higher levels of fecal coliform require higher levels of chlorine, threatening those aquatic organisms.
  • Fecal coliform, like other bacteria, can usually be inhibited in growth by boiling water or by treating with chlorine. Washing thoroughly with soap after contact with contaminated water can also help prevent infections. Gloves should always be worn when testing for fecal coliform. Municipalities that maintain a public water supply will typically monitor and treat for fecal coliforms.

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