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Total coliform bacteria are a group of related bacteria that are common in the environment, including soil, vegetation, and surface water. While not all coliform bacteria are harmful, their presence in drinking water indicates that there could be a pathway for other potentially harmful microorganisms to enter your water supply.


Fecal Coliforms or E-Coli come from one source only-the gut of a warm blooded animal such as cows, horses, cats, dogs, rabbits, deer, birds, or humans (septic tank). They do not come from cold blooded animals such as fish, toads, snakes, or insects.




Immediate Actions:

Boil Water: As a precaution, boil all drinking water for at least one minute before use. This will kill any bacteria present.

Use Bottled Water: Consider using bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth until the issue is resolved.

Inspection and Identification:

Inspect Your Well: If you have a private well, inspect it for any signs of damage or pathways for contamination, such as cracks in the well casing or issues with the well cap.

Check Septic System: Ensure that your septic system is functioning properly and is not leaking, which can be a source of contamination.


Shock Chlorination: Disinfect your well or water system using chlorination. This process involves adding a high concentration of chlorine to the water system to kill bacteria. You can find more information on chlorinating your well here: https://fredericktownelabs.com/tips-for-homeowners-chlorinating-a-well/


Wait and Retest: After disinfection, wait a week or two and then retest your water for total coliform bacteria.

Long-term Solutions:

Continuous Disinfection: If coliform bacteria are a recurring issue, consider installing a continuous disinfection system such as a UV light or chlorinator to ensure your water remains safe.

Well Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain your well to prevent future contamination. This includes ensuring a vermin-proof well cap and proper surface drainage away from the well.

Person filling a water bottle at their sink

If you need assistance with any of these steps or prefer professional help, please contact a certified well contractor or water treatment specialist. We can also recommend local professionals who can help with well inspections and disinfection.