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Serving Northern Virgina / Washington DC Metro Area Customers Since 1987

Could Coliform Bacteria Be in Your Well Water?

If you own a private well, you are well aware that well water can be contaminated quite easily and should be tested regularly according to regulations. One such possible well water contaminant is known as coliform bacteria. Coliforms are common in the environment, as they're always present in animal and human digestive systems and found in wastes, as well as plant and soil material. Most coliform bacteria will not cause illness, but if this type of bacteria is in your well water, it may be an indication that other disease-causing organisms, or pathogens, could also be in your water. These disease-causing pathogens can lead to bacteria causing diarrhea and vomiting, protozoa that causes dysentery, viruses, and helminths, or roundworms and tapeworms, that can lead to chronic diarrhea.

Three basic types of coliforms exist, and are generally easy to identify via professional well testing. Total coliforms include bacteria found in soil, water influenced by surface water and in human or animal waste. Fecal coliforms appear in the waste of people and animals, and when detected in your water, indicate that your well is contaminated with feces or sewage and may cause disease. Escherichia coli, or E coli, is a sub-group of the fecal coliform group. The presence of E coli in your well water indicates a high risk of illness.

Coliform bacteria can not be detected by look, taste, or smell of your well water. Testing for coliform bacteria is the only way to determine if it is in your well. If coliform bacteria is deemed present in your drinking water, your risk of contracting an associated illness is increased and should be considered an indication of pollution in your well, even though total coliforms can come from sources other than fecal matter.

Looking for ways to decrease your chances of allowing coliform bacteria in your well? Make sure the seals around the wires, pipes, and where the well cap meets the casing are not cracked. Check for any cracks or holes in the well casing, which can allow water that has not been filtered through the soil to enter the well. Well flooding is a common defect that can lead to the presence of coliform bacteria. And finally, contact SES for professional testing and consultation. Based in Warrenton, Virginia, SES has been inspecting, servicing, maintaining, and repairing residential and commercial Northern Virginia septic systems since 1987.

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