We get this question a lot where a private well owner or city water user finds what they call pink mold in their bathroom or even their basement. It is not mold, it is actually a pink bacterial colony that can range in color from light pink to red. These pink bacteria are part of an opportunistic motile, facultative anaerobic organism, gram-negative bacteria that is part of the Serratia species and the family Enterobacteriaceae.
Most individuals then find out that the bacteria goes by the name Serratia marcescens and then they search the internet and find out that Serratia marcescens is associated with urinary and respiratory infections, endocarditis, septicemia, wound infections, eye infections, and meningitis and "CAN BE" an opportunistic pathogen and therefore the average homeowner believes there is a health crisis and the cause is their water and they panic.
These bacteria are widespread in soil and water and not associated with sewage, but these bacteria have an airborne route and not a waterborne route.
Pink bacteria in most homes and basements are not an immediate health crisis, but more of a nuisance. The real problem is not the bacteria - but moisture.
There are no drinking water standards for pink bacteria. Why not? Because it is an airborne bacterium, not a waterborne bacterium. This airborne bacterium grows in moist environments and feeds on the mineral deposits in showers, bathroom tiles, toilet bowls, on shower curtains, and pet water bowls. The bacteria "feed" on the fatty material in soap and soap scum, and shampoo residues. It can also be found on counter tops, shower doors, or curtain liners in moist environments. The real problem is not the bacteria - but moisture.
Serratia is not considered harmful to healthy individuals, but can be an opportunistic pathogen in immunocompromised individuals. When pathogenic, "Serratia marcescens has been associated with urinary tract infections, wound infections, sepsis, and pneumonia and they have been associated with hospital acquired infections." (Source)
Level 1 Testing is done with simple observations that an individual can make with their own senses such as sight, smell, and taste. These observations can be readily apparent or can be observed as they change over time. In addition, accessible related information about the home can also be used to narrow down the cause of your water issues.
Pink bacterial problems may be identified in areas that are frequently damp to wet or normally damp and dark spaces. The following are the primary observations that suggest you may have problems with pink bacteria.
Please note: The bacteria normally look pink, but it can also be pinkish-orange or orange.
Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Testing Kit. After you’ve done Level 1 Testing, Level 2 Testing can confirm if your observations are correct. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment (see below) or continue to Level 3 Testing.
We are not aware of a specific test for pink bacteria, but it may be wise to check the level of bacteria and mold in the air and have a bacterial test conducted on your drinking water.
Level 3 Testing is done through an accredited Water Testing Laboratory. With Level 3 Testing, you can order a testing kit that is used to prepare your sample and submit it to the lab. By utilizing a lab, you have the assurance that a certified water expert had analyzed your water sample. If your test results reveal the presence of a contaminant that is cause for concern, you can either proceed to determine the best treatment options (see below) or continue to Level 4 Testing - Certified Testing.
A Level 4 Certified Test Test uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home to prepare the water sample and then works with an accredited laboratory in order to certify your test results. This type of testing not only gives you the highest level of assurance in the accuracy of your test results, but can also be used as a document in legal cases. For Baseline Testing, we recommend that you use Certified Testing.
Testing indoor air quality is typically a service provided by an industrial hygienist; there are some larger national laboratories that provide testing-related services. If you need assistance in finding a testing service, please contact our team.