Slime bacteria are a group of bacteria that produces slime, but unlike iron-reducing bacteria they do not need to use iron or manganese in the process. The slime produced by slime-forming bacteria is typically gray, clear, and thicker than that of iron-reducing bacteria, but the slime can appear yellow or beige if other metals have accumulated in the polysaccharide-polymer slime layer. When the organism is stressed, it can create a thicker slime layer; it also tends to be thicker under aerobic conditions.
Slime-forming bacteria tend to be associated with creating nuisance issues, interfering with the performance of a disinfection system, and, in some cases, they are associated with microbiologically-induced corrosion and poor performance of water appliances and exchange systems. Slime bacteria can also mask a problem associated with coliform bacteria or a waterborne pathogen.
At this time, we are not aware of any specific health risks from slime-forming bacteria, but if these bacteria are abundant it is more likely the water may have an aesthetic problem. Slime-forming bacteria can result in the premature failure or poor performance of water treatment devices and other appliances. In more extreme cases, the bacteria may cause microbiologically-induced corrosion and result in elevated levels of copper, lead, zinc, and other metals found within the piping and components of the water distribution system.
There are no specific standards for slime-forming bacteria, but there are standards for other groups of bacteria. There is a standard for total coliform bacteria (absent or none) and a standard known as the "standard plate" count which is a test for heterotrophic bacteria, (< 500 colonies per ml). Since slime-forming bacteria are heterotrophic bacteria, it can be inferred that slime-forming bacteria are indirectly regulated by the heterotrophic bacteria standard but that standard does include other, non-slime heterotrophic bacteria which do not create a nuisance or result in elevated levels of corrosion by-products. You could have a high result for the standard-plate-count without having any slime bacteria.
There are warning signs of a potential problem with slime bacteria. These warning signs may include a water that has an odor, water with an off-taste, surfaces that are commonly exposed to the water with a slimy feel, and, in extreme cases, you can see slime dripping from the faucet or slimes attached to surfaces moving in the water.
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.
The following are some warning signs or symptoms of a problem associated with slime bacteria:
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.
Low-cost screening tests for slime-forming bacteria are not readily available, but the primary warning signs would be discolored water, slime coatings, an off-taste, decreased well yield, and increased levels of corrosion by-products and even elevated levels of aluminum. One way you can check if you have slime bacteria is to take a "pickle container," rinse it, and fill it with your water. Let this set in the dark for about 1 to 2 weeks, and take a look at the water. If you see slimy growths, you probably have a slime bacteria problem. (Source - Thanks Grandma - from when she would can pickles).
There are some BART testing kits that are excellent for testing for slime-forming bacteria, sulfur, iron bacteria, nitrate, and even heterotrophic bacteria. They are easy to use, but it is critical that they are used and disposed of properly.
If the testing is positive for your private water source, you may want to consider shock disinfecting your system before conducting any additional testing. We recommend using the Well Safe product (Learn more about Treatments Below).
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.
Certified water testing is available for slime-forming bacteria, but this evaluation should most likely include a wider range of microbiological agents. If you need assistance with finding a certified laboratory, please contact our team.