Humans have more than a trillion bacteria living in their bodies at any given moment. Most of it lives in our intestinal tract and is designed to help, rather than hurt us. However, just a small amount of bad bacteria and we can become very sick. Some bad bacteria may even kill us. Bacteria are all around us.
Killing the bad stuff is why we use anti-bacterial soaps, anti-bacterial cleaners, and why we take antibiotics for an infection. For those of us who use a private well water system in our homes, bad bacteria may also be lurking in our water supply.
What could happen if bacteria are in our water?
If harmful bacteria are present in your water supply, it could cause:
- Digestive upset
- Intestinal infection
- Other diseases
Because bacteria in our water supply cannot be detected through: looking at the water, smelling the water, or tasting the water, we must have it tested.
Bacteria water testing
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all public water systems to be tested for bacteria regularly. If and when contamination is present, the public water companies are required to notify all their customers.
Customers are then advised not to drink, cook with, wash dishes with, or brush their teeth with the water unless it has been boiled for two minutes. Then, customers are notified once again when their supply is considered safe for drinking right out of the tap.
People who use private wells do not have these same protections. Well owners are responsible for ensuring the water from those wells is safe for consumption. As such, they must conduct their own testing and treatment.
Testing Well Water
The EPA suggests well owners test their water for bacteria at least twice a year. Those who live in areas where storms are common should test after a storm. Run off from nearby bodies of water and storm damage could cause contamination. Wells should also be tested:
- When any repairs are being made.
- When a new well is built.
- When an old well is being restored for service.
- When continuing illness is a problem: this could indicate contamination in the water supply.
- When livestock or animal waste is nearby.
Water testing kits are available to help you determine if your water supply has been contaminated. They will however, only show you whether or not the bacteria are present. These store-bought tests will not show how much bacteria is present in the water. You have to send it off for laboratory analysis in order to determine how much bacteria are present.
For more accurate test results, a professional company can come and test multiple water samples. They can also expedite the test through a trusted laboratory to ensure the results are as accurate as possible.
Some Final Thoughts
If a bacteria water test comes back positive for coliform bacteria, the professional team can help you treat the water to ensure the water supply is safe for consumption. They may also be able to help you track down the source of the contamination to stop it from happening again the future.
If you choose to test on your own, it will be about 48 hours before you have results. While you wait for the test results to come back, use caution as if your water is contaminated. Boil water for one to two minutes at a full running boil and then cool it down before you drink it, cook with it, wash dishes, or brush your teeth.
Do not rely on your dishwasher and coffee maker, as these appliances will not get the water hot enough to kill the bacteria. Shower or bathe as normal, but do not drink the water.