It seems like every day there is a town somewhere in the country that issues a boil-water alert due to E. coli contamination of tap water. A quick Google search shows that just this month, E. coli outbreaks were discovered in tap water on both coasts and in the Midwest. Exposure to E. coli can cause some severe health effects, so it’s important to do what you can to avoid the bacteria. Today we’re going to talk about what E. coli is, how it gets into drinking water and what you can do to protect your home’s tap water from E. coli contamination!
What is E. coli?
E. coli is a strain of coliform bacteria that is found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are a number of strains of coliform bacteria, some of which are harmless and others that can severely affect our health. E. coli falls into the latter category, and it is one of the leading causes of waterborne illnesses around the country. If E. coli is present in drinking water, it is typically an indication that the water is contaminated by sewage water or traces of animal waste.
How does E. coli get into water?
As we mentioned above, the presence of E. coli in drinking water typically indicates that the water was infected by either sewage waste or animal feces. This can happen a few different ways:
- Agricultural storm runoff. When it rains in rural areas, storm water flows over the ground and can come into contact with animal waste near farms. If that waste contains E. coli, the bacteria can be carried over the ground and into nearby water wells or other drinking water supplies.
- Sewage overflows. When it rains excessively in urban areas, sewage systems can temporarily overflow. The water from these systems can flow over streets and sidewalks and end up flowing into drinking water supply lines or nearby lakes and rivers that connect to sources of drinking water.
- Broken water mains. If a water main breaks in a city, water that’s contaminated with E. coli can seep into the cracks of the broken pipes and infiltrate the lines that serve tap water to the public.
What are the health effects of E. coli in drinking water?
The most common symptoms of exposure to E. coli are severe diarrhea and abdominal cramping that can last as long as 5-10 days. The bacteria poses an even bigger threat to elderly people and young children, because it can damage their red blood cells and cause kidney failures. Some strands of E. coli are worse than others, and the most dangerous strands can be deadly for anyone who is exposed to them regardless of his or her age.
How can you kill the E. coli in your drinking water?
Since E. coli is a biological contaminant, the best way to kill it is to install a UV light water purification system. This type of water treatment system shines ultraviolet lights directly onto your tap water supplies, which either kills E. coli bacteria or renders them harmless. A UV light system will also kill any other viruses, germs or bacteria in your home’s tap water, which will help keep your family healthy and prevent the spreading of illnesses throughout your home.
If you have any questions about E. coli in drinking water, or if you’d like a water system serviced or installed in your home, contact EPA Water, your water softener and water filtration system dealer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We provide service all over Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including towns like Doylestown, Macungie and Malvern, PA.