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Bacteria Counts in Kimberley

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Published Date Written by Vivian van Wyk

In September 2012 the Kimberley branch of UIS Analytical Services officially opened a microbiology division. The section's main focus is the analysis of bacteria in various (surface, borehole, waste and potable/drinking) waters thereby expanding water quality analyses offered to clients in the Northern Cape and Free State provinces.

Microbiology is the study of microbes, most of which are too small to be observed with the naked eye, e.g. viruses, bacteria, yeast and fungi. Numerous species of microbes exist. Beneficial types play vital roles in our daily life by assisting in the degradation of harmful substances, contributing to the environment nutrient cycle and manufacturing of antibiotics, food and beverage products. In contrast harmful microbes cause food spoilage, fouling and diseases in humans, animals and crops. This article focuses on coliform bacteria in drinking water.

Coliform bacteria are always present in animal and human digestive tracts and therefore are found in their waste byproducts. Water pollution due to faecal contamination is a serious problem as it creates the 'potential' for contracting diseases from pathogens. Coliforms are relatively easy to identify and exist in larger numbers than the dangerous pathogens, so simply testing for their presence/absence is an economical and excellent alarm indicator of hazardous water.

A 'Total coliform' count gives a general indication of the sanitary condition of a water supply and includes non-hazardous coliforms from soil run-off into the water.

Testing for 'faecal coliform' bacteria due to waste contamination from warm-blooded animals is considered a more accurate indication of potential danger. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a major species of faecal coliforms which does not grow or reproduce in normal environment conditions. E. coli bacteria are thus the best indicator of faecal pollution and possible presence of pathogens.

UIS Analytical Service offers three tests: 'Total Plate Count', 'Total Coliforms' and 'E-Coli'. What would the identification and counting of these mean? If coliform bacteria are present in drinking water, the risk of contracting a water-born illness is increased. Although total coliforms come from sources other that faecal matter, a positive sample count should be considered an indication of pollution. Positive faecal coliform results, especially positive E. coli results, should be considered an indication of faecal pollution in the water supply.

Testing for bacteria is the only reliable way to know if your water is safe. Send your WATER for testing to UIS Analytical Services and we will gladly do the coliform counting.

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