Well Water Testing Analysis and Contamination in MA and NH – Total Coliform Bacteria in water

This post kicks off our series highlighting some of the contaminants that can be found in well water.  Northeast Water Wells is available to collect samples and test your well water for contaminants anytime.

If you have a private well, regular water quality testing is very important.  Northeast Water Wells recommends testing your well at least every two years.  Many contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed.

Total Coliform Bacteria –

The name “coliform” is given to a whole group of bacteria that can occur in water and indicates potential health concerns.  Total Coliform Bacteria test results that come back from the lab showing a result of Absent would indicate that it is not likely that your water contains a microbiological agent that could pose a health problem.

Coliform bacteria are commonly found in soil, on vegetation, and in surface waters.  They also live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and humans.  Some coliform bacteria strains can survive in soil and water for long periods of time.  Coliform bacteria will not likely cause illness in most people; however, because coliform bacteria are most commonly associated with sewage or surface waters, the presence of coliform bacteria in drinking water indicates that other disease-causing organisms may be present in the water source or its distribution system.

There are three different groups of coliform bacteria, and each has a different level of health risk:

  • Total coliform bacteria are commonly found in the environment and are generally harmless. If only total coliform bacteria are detected in drinking water, the source is probably environmental, and fecal contamination is not likely. If environmental contamination can enter the system, however, that suggests there may be a way for pathogens to enter the system. Therefore it is important to determine the source and resolve the problem.
  • Fecal coliform bacteria are a sub-group of the total coliform group. They are found in great quantities in the feces of people and animals. The presence of fecal coliform in a drinking water sample often indicates recent fecal contamination, meaning that there is a greater risk that pathogens are present than if only total coliform bacteria are detected.
  • E. coli is a sub-group of the fecal coliform group. Most E. coli are harmless and are also found in great quantities in the feces of people and warm-blooded animals. Some strains, however, may cause illness. Some of these common waterborne illness symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and cramps. Populations at highest risk to this ailment are: young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems.

Total Plate Count –

The Total Plate Count is a measure of the biological activity in a water sample. It is used to measure the safety and sanitization of your drinking water. This is a count of all aerobic (oxygen loving) or mesophilic (moderate temperature loving) micro-organism colonies such as bacteria, yeast and mold fungi will grow in 72 hours at a controlled temperature.

Can Bacteria in Water be treated?

Bacteria can be re-mediated out of Water wells systems. Bacteria in water is usually treated with a Chlorination treatment. Sometimes more than one treatment is required to treat ongoing bacteria outbreaks in Water Wells and Water Well pumping systems. Typically once the wells have been treated with Chlorine the water is reanalyzed for bacteria. If bacteria is still present then a UV Water Filtration system may be considered for a more permanent solution.

Northeast Water Wells offers a variety of testing packages to take care of all of your water needs. Call today to set up a time for us to collect a sample of your water. All of our testing is done through a state certified analytical lab.

Article written by Karen Provencher, Northeast Water Wells.