For many years now, scientists around the globe have been working tirelessly to prevent people from consuming contaminated water that could cause a lot of harm to them. To achieve their goal, the scientists have always used the coliform bacteria count found in water catchments areas such as streams, wells, lakes and even rivers to determine the level of water contamination.
The coliform bacteria count refers to the number of the coliform bacteria colonies found in every 100ml of the water sample being tested. Different numbers of these colonies tend to suggest different levels of water contamination. However, given that the coliform bacteria comprise of three types of bacteria species namely the Fecal coliform, E. coli coliform and lastly the Total coliform, different valuations are assigned to each type. In our case, the Fecal bacteria is rated as the highest contamination agent of water. The reason here being that, the Fecal coliform is largely situated in the feces of humans and animals. This factor allows it to carry with it other pathogenic bacteria that may cause a lot of harm to other organisms. Such problems includes cholera outbreaks and so on.
Several factors affect the coliform bacteria count in water. One of these factors is the presence or absence of septic tanks around the water catchments area where the sample has been taken from. Septic tanks are used to store the human waste for a while before sending it to the appropriate site for it to be finally disposed. These tanks have pipes that carry out the transportation process and at times, they pass through these water bodies. Due to wear and tear on the pipes brought about by either corrosion or poor maintenance of the pipes, small leakages can occur and the waste material can be released to the water body. Definitely when this takes place, the water gets contaminated with coliform bacteria and when a sample is taken from it to do the coliform bacteria count, it will be noticed that this water body may have a higher count compared to another water body that may not have septic tanks around it.
Another way that the coliform bacteria count in water could increase is when the water body is situated near an area that has slam villages. Toilets in these areas are rare to find and people usually find it easy to relieve themselves inside these catchments areas. As they release the human waste to the water body, coliform bacteria such as the Fecal coliform are also released with the feces and then get to mix with the water in this area. This way, water contamination occurs and the coliform bacteria are seen to move around the water. Due to the fact that this act by the villagers would be repeatedly done, a higher coliform bacteria count will always be achieved in these water bodies compared to the ones that are in areas where upper class people are and toilets are not a big problem to locate.
A properly conducted coliform bacteria count is usually used to determine the most likely bacteria to be found in the sampled water so that the scientists could determine the most effective treatment for the water before people get to use it. For example, if the Total coliform is seen to be dominant or even the only coliform bacteria present in the samples, the scientists would be quick to judge that the most probable cause of contamination is the environment and the treatment to be administered would be the one that destroys bacteria found in the environment. When Fecal coliforms are seen to be dominant, then the most probable cause of contamination would be feces and these could be from both animals or people residing around the catchments. This knowledge would again prompt the scientists to provide proper treatment that would kill all pathogens and all other harmful bacteria believed to be dangerous to man. The residents would then be taught on how to use this treatment on the water before consuming it.
Wangeci Kinyanjui is an expert on research and reporting on Health Matters for years. To get more information on coliform bacteria count visit her site at COLIFORM BACTERIA COUNT .