Bacteria in Tap Water - Levels of Bacteria in Tap Water Can Vary Dramatically

How concerned should you be about bacteria in tap water? It isn’t an easy question, because levels of bacteria in tap water can vary dramatically from one region to another.

We know that water treatment facilities chlorinate our tap water to protect us from harmful bacteria, but just how effective is it? Bacteria can also enter the tap water from other sources as it travels from the treatment facility to your home, but is it enough to cause harm? Are wells safer, or are they even more prone to contamination?

The process that is generally used to test for bacteria in tap water is a coliform count. Coliforms originate mainly from human and animal waste, and are commonly found in soil, on vegetation and basically everywhere outdoors. Although coliforms themselves do not cause disease, their presence in high concentrations can be a fairly accurate indication that something even more sinister may be present in the water.

When more serious contaminants such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery or hepatitis are present, coliforms will be found in even higher concentrations, which is why testing for coliforms is the easiest way to determine if water is safe.

The law requires that all public water systems be tested for bacteria on a regular basis, but there is no law regarding the testing of private wells.

If your home has a well, it is advisable to have your water tested on a regular basis to make sure that it hasn’t gotten contaminated. There are a number of ways that wells can become contaminated, and you may not even know that any change has occurred in your water unless people in your household start feeling sick, and by then it could be too late.

Anytime there has been excessive rainfall and localized flooding, there is potential danger of a well becoming contaminated. Ground that is unable to drain adequately can allow contaminants from the surface or even sewage from a saturated septic field to find its way into a nearby well. Today’s building codes restrict the distance that septic systems can be placed from wells, but in older homes this may not apply.

In older homes it is not uncommon to find septic tanks too close to wells or septic pipes running adjacent to water pipes. Older wells were built from brick or stone, and allow plenty of opportunity for contaminants, even animals to enter.

With newer wells, you should have them inspected on a regular basis to ensure that all equipment is working properly. Leaky pipes or a faulty seal on the well’s pressure tank are points of entry for contamination, and even a little bacteria in tap water can lead to a lot if given the opportunity to multiply.

Anytime you have had repairs made or parts such as pumps replaced, the system should be sterilized through shock chlorination. Shock chlorination is a process by which a strong chlorine solution is poured into the well. It is usually done after flooding has occurred or when tests indicate high coliform levels.

To read more about related subjects, please follow these links:

What Is In Tap Water?

Should You Filter Tap Water?

Tap Water Facts

What Are The Benefits Of Tap Water?

Bottled Water vs Tap Water