||Roads Capital Improvements/Maintenance
||Trails Capital Improvements/Maintenance
||Stream Water Monitoring Site Measurement: Coliform or Fecal Bacteria
Bacteria are microscopic single-celled organisms that function as decomposers in a waterway breaking down plant and animal remains. Bacteria live in water, on the surface of the water, in the bottom (benthic) sediments, on detritus (dead organic material), and in and on the bodies of plants and animals. Bacteria serve as food for other organisms; they are also involved in many chemical reactions within the water.
While bacteria normally inhabit waterways as an integral part of the food web, human activities may introduce pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria to the system. Of greatest concern to public health is the introduction of fecal waste from humans or warm-blooded animals. Fecal bacteria are used as indicators of possible sewage contamination because they are commonly found in human and animal feces. Escherichia coli, E. coli, is a species of fecal coliform bacteria that is specific to fecal material from humans and other warm-blooded animals. Enterococcus is another fecal bacteria indicator (albeit not coliform) used to monitor water quality that we are not presently testing.
Importance of Bacteria:
E. coli and enterococcus bacteria are generally not harmful by themselves, but do indicate the possible presence of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, viruses, and protozoans that also live in human and animal digestive systems. Elevated levels of these bacteria can cause health problems (including ear infections, stomach upset and urinary tract infections in women), cloudy water, unpleasant odors, and an increased oxygen demand (the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms in breaking down waste). Infections also come from swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water. The EPA recommends E. coli as the best indicator of health risk from water contact in recreational waters.
How bacteria affects the water:
Possible sources of coliform contamination to rivers include wastewater treatment plants, on-site septic systems, domestic and wild animal manure, and storm runoff.
Acceptable Fecal Bacteria Ranges:
Coliform ranges typically found in surface water are <1 to 80,000 colonies per 100 mL, while coliform ranges typically found in fecal-contaminated surface water are 1,200 to >4,000,000 colonies per 100 mL.
The "advised safe level" for E. coli in freshwater used for bathing is a concentration of less than 126 E. coli per 100 mL.
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