+
Indoor
Outdoor
+
Outdoor
Indoor
This is a newly redesigned Water-Research.net page
Page Archive

Get Informed | Total Coliform Bacteria

What is Total Coliform Bacteria?

Coliform (rod-shaped) bacteria are a natural part of the microbiology of the intestinal tract of warm blooded mammals, including humans. Coliform bacteria can also be found in soil, other animals, insects, etc. The total coliform group is relatively easy to culture in the lab, and therefore, has been selected as the primary indicator bacteria for the presence of disease-causing organisms. The total coliform bacteria test is a primary indicator of "potability" or how suitable the water is for drinking. It measures the concentration of all (total) of the coliform bacteria in a water sample with the reasonable assumption that higher concentrations are associated with the likely presence of disease-causing organisms (not all of them cause disease). Coliform bacteria can be found in surface water, groundwater, soil, vegetation, insect waste, and in the feces of warm blooded animals.

To the laboratory geek or citizen scientist: Total coliform bacteria are a group of bacteria that are rod-shaped, gram-negative, non spore-forming bacteria that produce gas and acids when they ferment lactose when incubated for 24 hours at 35°-37° C.

How Does Total Coliform Bacteria become a problem?

All coliform bacteria are not pathogenic or disease-causing, but they are associated with other disease-causing organisms. Because of their sensitivity to common disinfection practices (like chlorinating the water), they are used as an indicator of potential contamination by other microbes (bacteria, viruses, and protozoans).

What are the Standards for Total Coliform Bacteria?

The drinking water standard for total coliform bacteria is <1 or zero colony-forming-units per 100 ml of water sample. This means it should be absent in potable water.

What are the Health Risks for Total Coliform Bacteria?

The presence of total coliform bacteria would suggest it is more likely there may be other disease-causing organisms in the water. Coliform bacteria are not pathogenic (disease causing) organisms, and are only mildly infectious.These other microbes may be associated with bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and even death.

Get Tested |Total Coliform Bacteria

Like many contaminants in drinking water, there may be no warning signs of very low levels of bacterial contamination, but at high levels it is common for the water to have an odor, a metallic sheen, appear discolored, or be associated with slimy coatings that are discolored. Your best course of action is to get your water tested and compile as much information as possible about your water's supply source, well construction, surrounding land-use, and local geology. For water wells we have found that about 50% of the time a well is positive for total coliform bacteria; the problem can often be remediated by shock-disinfecting the well and installing a sanitary well cap.

Level 1 | Observational Self-Testing

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.

Observations for Total Coliform Bacteria

You may suspect that your problem with your water is caused by a bacterium, if you notice one or more of these warning signs:

  • The water has an odor that is not chemical in nature, but smells earthy, musty, sulfur-like, sewage-like, or generally unpleasant.
  • When the water sets, the surface of the water has a metallic sheen that, when you break the film, the pieces of the film stay apart and have angular edges.
  • You observe slimy coatings or bacterial growth or you have been told by a plumber or other professional that pipe corrosion is being caused by “MIC” (microbiologically induced corrosion).
  • You experience gastrointestinal issues.


The warning signs of a bacterial problem in most cases will not be noticeable until the bacterial concentration is well over 1 colony per 100 ml. This is why we recommend annual water testing.

Level 1 | Self-Test Web App
To do a quick and easy self diagnosis of your water, click the button below.
Launch

Level 2 | Do-It-Yourself Testing

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.

Notes on Level 2 Testing for Total Coliform Bacteria

There are meters that can field-check the bacterial level of water and surfaces by checking the ATP content of the water (ATP, Adenosine TriPhosphate, is the energy-producing compound found in all cells. By measuring its concentration, you are indirectly measuring the concentration of all cells in the water), but these units are expensive and require experience to use and maintain. The standard screening test for a bacterial problem is testing for the “Coliform” group of bacteria, such as: total coliform and E. coli. These groups of bacteria are not the only bacterial or microbiological groups that can cause a water quality problem or health concern, but it is a good first step in determining and understanding your situation. The most cost-effective first step would be to use one of the Do-It-Yourself in-home screening tests for the total coliform group.

Recommended Level 2 Tests
National Testing LabsWaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Tap ScoreTotal Microbiological Test

<div class="product-note in-L6-dissolved-gasses">Note: For Carbon Dioxide, Sewage Odors</div>

View
Filter WaterSediment Water Filter 10 Inch 5 Micron (Code A27AC)

<div class="product-note in-L6-trihalomethanes">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Trihalomethanes, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-haloacetic-acids">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Haloacetic Acids, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>

View
Crystal QuestThunder 4000M Reverse Osmosis System with UV

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L (POU Device System Component)</div>

View
National Testing LabsCityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Recommended Products
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-4 | WaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-W-2 | WaterCheck Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Tap ScoreL3-TASC-T-02 | Total Microbiological Test

<div class="product-note in-L6-dissolved-gasses">Note: For Carbon Dioxide, Sewage Odors</div>

View
Filter WaterLT-FILT-S-01 Sediment Water Filter 10 Inch 5 Micron

<div class="product-note in-L6-trihalomethanes">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Trihalomethanes, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-haloacetic-acids">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Haloacetic Acids, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>

View
Crystal QuestLT-CRYS-T-01 | Thunder 4000M Reverse Osmosis System with UV

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L (POU Device System Component)</div>

View
National Testing LabsL3-NATE-C-3 | CityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

Level 3 | Informational Testing

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.

Notes on Level 3 Testing for Total Coliform Bacteria

This testing helps to identify and confirm a bacterial problem using a third party and controlled testing environment using approved testing methods, but at a reasonable cost. This testing is primarily for informational purposes to help identify and understand the nature and cause of a suspected problem associated with bacteria. If you also have a corrosion problem or suspect a more serious waterborne pathogen, you may need to review these topics: Corrosion Issues and Waterborne Pathogens.

This test normally indicates whether the organism is present or absent, but the Total Bacterial Test provides a count or enumeration.  If you are using a private water source not impacted by volatile organics or pesticides, you may want to consider a more comprehensive informational water test that includes bacteria, general water quality, and trace metals, i.e., the National Testing Labs Water Test Basic Kit.  If you are concerned about volatile organics and pesticides and are using a private water source, we would suggest the National Testing Labs Water Test Deluxe Kit.

Recommended Level 3 Tests
National Testing LabsWaterCheck® Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
National Testing LabsWater Check Deluxe

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View
Tap ScoreTotal Microbiological Test

<div class="product-note in-L6-dissolved-gasses">Note: For Carbon Dioxide, Sewage Odors</div>

View
Filter WaterSediment Water Filter 10 Inch 5 Micron (Code A27AC)

<div class="product-note in-L6-trihalomethanes">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Trihalomethanes, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-haloacetic-acids">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Haloacetic Acids, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>

View
Crystal QuestThunder 4000M Reverse Osmosis System with UV

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L (POU Device System Component)</div>

View
National Testing LabsCityCheck Standard

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

Level 4 | 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.

Notes on Level 4 Testing for Total Coliform Bacteria

This testing will require an unbiased “third party” to collect the necessary water quality samples. In many cases, the observations and diagnostics conducted in Level 1, screening testing in Level 2 and Level 3 will be an asset and aid in determining the number, type, and location of this “certified” testing. In many cases, Level 4 testing is associated with a regulated activity, legal action, or real-estate transfer.

Get Treatment | Total Coliform Bacteria

If you are using a private well, we recommend shock-disinfecting the well and distribution system twice and if necessary installing a sanitary well cap and securing the wellhead. Securing the wellhead means that the top of the well is 18 inches above grade and flood level, the cap has a screen to prevent entry of vermin or insects, and surface water does not pond in the vicinity of the wells. After the wellhead has been secured, the water from the well should be tested at two locations, near the well and at the far end of the distribution system. Other types of disinfection system may include submicron-nanofiltration, chlorination, ozonation, peroxide addition, and UV irradiation.

Short Term Treatment

As previously mentioned, the short-term treatment would be to check / secure the area around the well and conduct a shock-disinfection of the well and distribution system. This recommendation would also apply to a spring. For a City Water user, we would recommend removing any aeration devices, repairing any leaks, cleaning the sampling point with a chlorine solution and/or 91% alcohol, then boiling the water if directed by the water authority, or drinking bottled water. If you are a backpacker or outdoorsman, or in an emergency, situation we would recommend boiling the water and then consider using chlorine or iodine tablets and a portal Berkey or Sawyer water filter.

Recommended Short-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-dissolved-gasses">Note: For Carbon Dioxide, Sewage Odors</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-trihalomethanes">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Trihalomethanes, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-haloacetic-acids">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Haloacetic Acids, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L (POU Device System Component)</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Contact a Know Your H2O Recommended Professional

Not up for A DIY?  We can recommend a Local KnowYourH20 Team Professional Contact Us.

Long Term Treatment

The long-term solution will depend on the water quality and the level of bacterial contamination. If the water is only contaminated with total coliform bacteria and is E. coli. negative, it may be possible to install a 5 to 20 micron whole-house particle filter and a Class B UV disinfection system. If the water is total coliform and E. coli. positive and you do not suspect viruses or protozoans, it may be possible to install a 5 to 20 micron backwash-able particle filter and a Class A UV disinfection system. We recommend using a UV disinfection system that would meet NSF /ANSI 55 Standards. For UV disinfection either sediment filtration or activated carbon filtration should take place before water passes through the unit. Particulate matter, color, and turbidity affect the transmission of ultraviolet to the microorganisms and so those condition must be remediated before the UV treatment for successful disinfection.

Class A point-of-entry and point-of-use systems covered by NSF /ANSI 55 are designed to inactivate and/or remove microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts, from contaminated water. These systems are not intended for the treatment of water that has obvious contamination such as raw sewage, nor are these systems intended to convert wastewater to drinking water. These systems are intended to be installed on visually clear water. Class A- UV sterilizers that meet NSF/ANSI Standard 55 Class A are required to provide a UV dose in excess of 40 mJ/cm2 over the entire life of the UV lamp. These units are required to monitor the UV output and control the rate of water flow through the unit to ensure that the water has the proper UV exposure.

Class B — These ultraviolet water treatment systems must have an ‘intensity & saturation’ rating of at least 16,000 uw-sec/cm2 and possess designs that will allow them to provide supplemental bactericidal treatment of water already deemed ‘safe’. i.e., no elevated levels of E. coli. or a standard plate count of less than 500 colonies per 1 ml. NSF Standard 55 "Class B" UV systems are designed to operate at a minimum dosage and are intended to "reduce normally occurring non-pathogenic or nuisance microorganisms only". The "Class B" or similar non-rated UV systems are not intended for the disinfection of microbiologically unsafe water. This unit should only be used on water that has already been disinfected but which might need a little additional disinfection at the point of use. Note: It is probably not a good idea to subject chlorinated water to UV treatment as it might tend to form undesirable chlorine compounds. However, if the chlorinated water is left to stand open overnight, the chlorine should dissipate as is well known by anyone who has fresh-water tropical fish (the chlorinated water can kill the fish).

Other common disinfection methods would be chlorination using a dry tablet erosion chlorination system or chlorine feed system. To a lesser extent, ozone and peroxide have been used to disinfect water. Depending on the source water quality, it is possible for these stronger oxidizers to react with naturally occurring dissolved organics and bromide to create disinfection by-products. Because of the need for reaction time to permit the disinfection to occur and to remove any disinfection by-products, these systems normally include some time of reaction or holding tank and post filtration using granular activated carbon.

In developing short-term and long-term solutions, we strongly recommend working with a “certified” professional. If you need assistance with finding or identifying certified professionals in your area, please request assistance through our team.

Recommended Long-Term Treatments

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-carbon-filtration">Note: For rural Areas with <a href="/indoor-6/herbicides-pesticides">Herbicides and Pesticides</a> Usage</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-dissolved-gasses">Note: For Carbon Dioxide, Sewage Odors</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-trihalomethanes">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Trihalomethanes, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>
<div class="product-note in-L6-haloacetic-acids">Note: The 10 inch sediment filter and housing will remove particles not Haloacetic Acids, but you can purchase the sediment filter housing and add a carbon block cartridge instead of the sediment cartridge. The carbon block cartridge is <a href="https://www.filterwater.com/p-117-10x5-carbon-block-cartridge.aspx?affid=10156" target="_blank" >FIlterWater part CQ-R5-10*5</a></div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L6-bromate">Note: If the concentration is < 0.01 mg/L (POU Device System Component)</div>

View

<div class="product-note in-L4-sulfur-treatment">Note: Use in combination with Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Test</div>

View
Contact a Know Your H2O Recommended Professional

Do you have a series of issues and are not up for a DIY? We can recommend a Local KnowYourH20 Team Professional Contact Us.

Archive Page Reference
This is a newly redesigned Water-Research.net page. To reference related archived Water-Research.net page(s) click the link(s) below: