E. coli has been found in many drinking water systems, but what is it?

Escherichia coli, commonly referred to as E. coli, is in a group of organisms known as coliforms: 
common bacteria found in the digestive system of humans and animals.

There are only a few strains that cause serious disease in humans. One of these strains is responsible for causing Traveler’s diarrhea, and the second is E. coli O157:H7, which contaminates meat and leafy vegetables. 

Under a high magnification of 6836X, this digitally-colorized, scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image depicted a growing cluster of Gram-negative, rod-shaped, Escherichia coli bacteria, of the strain O157:H7, which is a pathogenic strain of E. coli.
Source: CDC/ National Escherichia, Shigella, Vibrio Reference Unit at CDC – Photo Credit; Janice Haney Carr 2006.

The “O157:H7” strain has caused serious hemorrhagic diarrhea and for some, long term complications resulting in illness and even death in some cases.


The presence of E. coli is used as an indicator to monitor the possible presence of other more harmful microbes, such as Giardia, Shigella, Norovirus and the Protozoa Cryptosporidium. Diseases resulting from contact with water contaminated by E. coli can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever. When E. coli exceeds the permissible level in recreational water, it results in the closing of public swimming pools and fishing areas.

Some possible sources of fecal contamination include: wildlife, agricultural runoff or runoff from areas contaminated with livestock manure, wastewater treatment plants, or private septic systems. Heavy rain may cause organisms to be washed into waterways, lakes or ground water. If contaminated water is then used as a source of drinking water and is not treated, or is inadequately treated, it may result in illness.

When this contaminant makes its way into a drinking water system sediment found on the bottom of water storage tanks can provide a safe habitat. E. coli along with other bacteria and pathogens, can find shelter from disinfectants under the the soft sediment that accumulates in storage tanks..

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list E. coli as one of the top 10 Causes of outbreaks in public water systems.

The best way to insure that E. coli or other bacteria will not invade your tank sediment is to remove it. Clean your water storage tanks then maintain them by getting them on a cleaning schedule.

Since 1997 Ron Perrin Water Technologies, Inc. has been a leader in the inspection and cleaning of water storage tanks and towers. Our inspection methods cover all state required inspection points. We also include a video produced by a underwater camera and lighting system that are able to properly inspect the interior floors of your facilities to determine sediment levels. We do all of this with no disruption in service and no water loss.

Our potable water dive team can keep your tanks clean with no disruption in service and minimal water loss. When sediment is removed the habitat that allows bacteria and other contaminants to remain in your tank is also gone. This allows the disinfectants like chlorine to do a much more effective job. Our customers report to us that they use less chlorine, after their tanks are cleaned to meet standards. For more information go to: www.ronperrin.com, send an e-mail to perrinsales@gmail.com or call 817-377-4899 for a quote today.

Reference: CDC Water-related Diseases and Contaminants in Public Water Systems – . Top 10 Causes – Outbreaks in Public Water Systems

E. coli – CDC –Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. E. coli are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses.

See more here: https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/index.html

Do you still need a reason to clean your water storage tanks

Sediment on the floor of your water storage tank is a Breach in your system. The more sediment you have in your water storage tanks the bigger your risk for having a water-related contaminant issue. Tank sediment builds up over time and can provide a wide range of contaminants including viruses a way to get a foothold in your water system. The tank sediment can provide a safe habitat allowing a small number of bacteria or viruses to quickly grow into the billions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a guidance and fact sheet on transmission of the novel coronavirus in water.

THE GOOD: The agency stated: “Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

THE BAD: The fact is other viruses are found in drinking water, in fact you will find them in the top ten contaminants. Including Hepatitis A, a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), and Norovirus. A very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Conventional water treatment methods should also prevent these viruses from contaminating drinking water systems but they remain in the top ten of drinking water-related contaminants.

Here is the top ten list of Water-related Diseases and Contaminants the CDC found in in Public Water Systems.

The United States has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. Over 286 million Americans get their tap water from a community water system (1). The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water quality in public water systems and sets maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants.

Sources of drinking water are subject to contamination and require appropriate treatment to remove disease-causing contaminants. Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred. There are many sources of water contamination, including naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium), local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations), manufacturing processes, and sewer overflows or wastewater releases.

The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.

Top 10 Causes – Outbreaks in Public Water Systems*
Giardia
Legionella
Norovirus
Shigella
Campylobacter
Copper
Salmonella
Hepatitis A
Cryptosporidium
E. coli, excess fluoride (tie)

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Source: CDC https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/water_diseases.html

Assessment and Corrective Action required under RTCR

Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) requires assessment and corrective action when there are indications of coliform contamination.  Lets talk about Assessment and Corrective action.

Under the RTCR, there is no longer a monthly maximum contaminant level (MCL) violation for multiple total coliform detections.  New revisions require systems that have indicators of coliform contamination in the distribution system to assess the problem and take corrective action that may reduce cases of illnesses and deaths due to potential fecal contamination and waterborne pathogen exposure.   The rule says “The Distribution System”  of course, what that means is,  “The Water Utility Manager or Operator” is now required to assess the problem and take corrective action when there are indications of coliform contamination.

Getting started assessing the problem:

A tank inspection may be the best place to start with the assessment.  Is the vent screen in place?  Are there birds or insects in the tank?  There are at least 12 steps to a water tank inspection and at least one of them should be to get a look inside the facility to see if there is sediment on the floor of the tank.  Over time, sediment will build up on the floor area of almost all water storage tanks and towers.  One to three inches is not uncommon here in Texas. Sediment is known to be a habitat for bacteria, protozoa and viruses.  Inspection contractors can offer great documentation of the interior condition of water storage tanks with no disruption in water utility service.  Using remotely operated cameras, inspection robots, or even potable water divers, high tech contractors can deliver great information about the water storage tank or tower.  For information on in-service Water Tank and Tower Inspections, see our inspection page at www.ronperrin.com. For tips on doing your own potable water tank or tower inspection, see: Do your own potable Water Tank Inspection at:  THE TANK DIVER blog.

Corrective action may be as simple as basic housekeeping.  If you know the facility has never been cleaned there is more than a good chance sediment inside the structure needs to be removed.  Again, a qualified diving contractor can save time, water and money by removing all loose sediment with minimal water loss or disruption in service.  For more information on using a Potable Water Dive Crew to clean your potable water tank or tower see our cleaning page: www.ronperrin.com/cleaning

Our tank cleaning customers tell us time and again that their chlorine use was significantly reduced after we cleaned their facility.   With regular inspections and cleanings your likelihood of a coliform contamination are greatly reduced,  if not completely eliminated.

Inspector climbs 750,000 gallon water storage tower.

Inspector climbs 750,000 gallon water storage tower.

Sediment sample

Sediment samples

To request a tank inspection or cleaning quote, call Ron Perrin Water Technologies toll free at 888-481-1768 or simply fill out the form below: