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You are making a very good point about the bacterium E. coli, however,
the press have taken to using the term E. coli for E. coli strain
0157:H7 the very toxic human killer. That strain is carried by farm
animals ,mainly cows, who show no symptoms but can cause human death
from exposure to water, poorly cooked meat or fruits and vegetables
exposed to fresh manure or runoff from pastures. In Ontario a community
water supply was poisoned leading to about seven deaths and thousands
seriously injured many of the children will face kidney transplant as
they age. Most community water must be monitored for fecal coliforms
(see below) a water pollution indicator while E. coli itself is
frequently monitored but is frequently elevated in dug wells (rather
than drilled wells). E coli free of strain o157:H7 is not normally a
threat but should be fixed with a dose of household bleach to the well.
Hope that helps, Cheers, Joe
What are Fecal Coliforms?
Fecal coliforms are bacteria that live in the digestive tract of
warm-blooded animals (humans, pets, farm animals, and wildlife) and are
excreted in the feces. In themselves, fecal coliforms generally do not
pose a danger to people or animals but they indicate the presence of
other disease-causing bacteria, such as those that cause typhoid,
dysentery, hepatitis A, and cholera.
Unlike fecal coliforms, disease-causing bacteria generally do not
survive long enough in the water, outside the body of animals, to be
detected. This makes their direct monitoring difficult. So scientists
and public health officials consider the presence of fecal coliforms an
indicator of disease bacteria in the water.
Why Should We Be Concerned?
Fecal coliforms and disease-causing bacteria live in water. We drink
water, bathe and swim in water, and eat fish who live in water. Storm
DrainThe filter-feeding nature of organisms such as oysters, clams, and
mussels can result in the bioaccumulation of bacteria, protozoa, and
viruses. The bacteria concentrated in the shellfish by this method of
feeding are not harmful to the shellfish, but can be harmful to people
that consume the shellfish, especially when eaten raw. Uncooked
contaminated shellfish can result in a variety of diseases ranging from
a mild food poisoning (Vibrio parahaemolyticus) to the more severe
cholera (Vibrio cholerae; no cases reported in the U.S. since 1991), or
paralytic shellfish poisoning (due to a toxin produced by algae and
associated with red tide).
Fecal contamination can arise from sources such as combined sewer
overflows, leaking septic tanks, sewer malfunction, contaminated storm
drains, animal feedlots, and other sources. Rainfall is frequently
associated with increased abundance of fecal coliforms in water due to
These bacteria are important indicators for the health of recreational,
drinking, and shellfishing waters. Fecal coliforms are sampled and
tested for in surface and ground water (drinking water, lakes, rivers,
and ponds) as well as estuaries and ocean waters (shell fishing beds,
beaches, boating areas). Both abundance and frequency of detection can
be used as an indication of the level of contamination.
The persistent presence of fecal coliforms can lead to Boil Water
Advisories from local utilities, beach closures, and/or shellfish bans.
Beyond the public health-related impact, the economic cost to the
community due to Boil Water Advisories or shellfishing bans can be
considerable. Another important reason for monitoring fecal coliforms is
the importance of human health in areas of active shellfishing.
What are we doing in MAIA?
Since fecal coliforms are an indicator of fecal contamination in
drinking water and recreational areas (lakes, rivers, ponds, estuaries,
and ocean waters), federal and state standards have been implemented to
monitor fecal coliform levels within each state. If coliform levels are
exceeded, corrective action is taken immediately and public notice is
given. In addition, the USEPA has instituted the Section 319 National
Monitoring Program, which includes sampling for fecal coliforms. This
work has been completed within various watersheds, including those
located in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
A joint federal, state, and shellfish industry cooperative program, the
National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) enforces regulatory
requirements, which monitors fecal coliform levels (and other
contaminants of concern) in an effort to ensure dependable shellfish to
the public. Many state programs, including the Virginia Department of
Health's Office of Water Program (VDH OWP) Department of Shellfish
Sanitation (DSS), also enforce these NSSP requirements. This is
completed through state shoreline surveys and sampling programs, which
test specifically for fecal coliforms. Some states, including New
Jersey, have even implemented statewide mandatory beach protection
programs. These programs include testing for fecal coliforms. In the
event that the fecal coliform standard is exceeded, New Jersey has
implemented mandatory closure requirements for affected locations.
What can I do?
* Properly maintain your septic system, pump it out regularly, and
replace it when necessary.
* If possible, convert from a septic system to a municipal sewer
* Pick up pet waste and flush it down the toilet. Municipal sewer
systems treat sewage.
* Use fencing to control the access of farm animals to rivers and
* Properly store and manage manure.
Roberto Verzola wrote:
Can someone pls explain why E.coli is considered a pathogen?
Doesn't it exist naturally in our gut? How can it be harmful? Aren't
they in fact an essential part of our gut ecology?
I know that the presence of E.coli is considered an indication of
fecal contamination, because the E.coli in our gut also appear in
human waste. So, a high E.coli count in water means fecal
contamination. But that doesn't make E.coli itself a pathogen, does