First Utility District resolves coliform bacteria problem

by Dave
By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
ljenkins@starhq.com
The First Utility District reported Friday that two samples of water sampled in the Stoney Creek area tested positive for total coliform bacteria in the month of June. Although this is not a serious health risk, the water department is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to report the test results to its customers.
According to Manager of the First Utility District Bill McFadden, his company is required by the EPA to test routinely each month. Total coliform bacteria was found in 2 of the 18 samples. The standard requires that no more than 1 sample per month may do so. Otherwise, the district customers have to be notified by a letter.
"This very rarely happens. We have to collect 8 samples per month and in the process, one of collectors either contaminated it or it tested positive because the sample was taken by an outside faucet," said McFadden. McFadden has worked for the company for 17 years, and this is the first occasion that two positive results came back in the same month.
McFadden said the reason that two of the 18 samples tested positive may have been due to fact that the samples were taken from outside spigots, where several types of insects thrive during summer. This factor could have caused the test to be positive.
Tests were taken at different locations in the area. McFadden sampled again 24 hours later per requirements and the tests were negative.
"As far as I am concerned, it is really nothing to be concerned about," he said. However, his company still has to follow regulations and report the problem to its customers.
If the situation was an emergency and the water was unsafe to drink, notices would have been given immediately to local newspapers, television and radio stations.
Coliform bacteria originate as organisms in soil or vegetation and in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals (fecal coli). This group of bacteria has long been an indicator of the contamination of water and possible presence of intestinal parasites and pathogens.
Sources of the bacteria can come from woodlands, feedlots, pastures, animals, septic tanks and sewage plants. Domestic animals contribute to the bacterial population. Many coliform bacteria get in streams by direct deposit of waste in the water and the runoff from areas with an abundance of animals or humans.
Boiling water is not necessary. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
Typically, coliforms are a sign that there could be a problem with the system's treatment or pipes. According to McFadden, whenever coliform is detected in any samples, follow-up testing is done to see if other bacteria of great concern , such as fecal coliform or E-coli, are present.
He emphasized, "We did not find any of these bacteria in our subsequent testing, and further testing shows that this problem has been resolved."