Water Quality Testing
Waterborne disease and other health effects can be caused when microbial, or chemical contaminants enter the drinking water supply. Pathogenic agents can cause a variety of illnesses in humans.
The spectrum of waterborne illness is very broad, ranging from asymptomatic or very mild infection to life-threatening disease. Gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e., diarrhea and vomiting) are common manifestations for many of these pathogens.
While drinking water is generally safe in Oregon, we cannot afford to be complacent. Safe water is only available because operators work hard and resources are invested to keep it so. Deferred maintenance, “accidents,” unusual rainfall events, mechanical failures – any number of things – can stress and sometimes overload even the best systems. When that happens, the potential for waterborne disease can go up very quickly.
The most common test used to determine if bacterial pathogens are present in drinking water is a relatively easy and inexpensive test called the total coliform test.
Coliform bacteria are a classification of bacteria that are naturally occurring in the air, soil, and water as well as in the intestinal track of warm blooded animals. The water industry uses this test as an indicator of possible fecal contamination or the presence of other pathogens in the water system.
If present, a contaminant pathway may exist between a contamination source and the water supply. Because coliform bacteria stay in water longer than most disease causing organisms, the absence of coliform bacteria leads to the assumption that the water supply is microbiologically safe to drink.
Elevated levels of coliform bacteria suggest problems in the system. Sources of the problem may include runoff, infiltration, leaching, cross connections, inadequate disinfection, and others. A positive test for coliform does not necessarily imply the presence of pathogens, but it suggests a potential for contamination of the water that demands immediate attention.
A significant deficiency is any condition in a water system that creates a reasonable threat of water contamination or a water outage. It could be a physical condition, a flawed operational procedure or a missing planning element that puts the system at risk.
Public water system operators must be able to identify significant deficiencies. This requires knowledge of the water system, common sense, accurate information and ongoing diligence. If a significant deficiency is identified, it is an operator’s responsibility to take the steps needed to correct the problem.
It is Merrill Water System’s business to assist the water system owners to protect people’s water supply from primary contaminants. Our primary job can be seen as an ongoing struggle to preclude those organisms and substances from drinking water that represent health risks.
We can help Water systems that are faced with primary contaminant problems, deal with those problems and return the system to a sanitary condition. Contamination problems can appear simple, but may be quite complex. The often-used remedy of throwing some chlorine bleach in the well to cure a coliform bacteria problem is usually ineffective at best, and can actually be counter-productive. When a primary contamination problem arises, you are dealing with people’s health. Proper solutions to primary contaminant problems require the application of informed, professional expertise.
We can also help with secondary contaminants. We know how to deal with problems such as unpleasant tastes and odors, staining problems, or hard water. Like primary contaminant problems, secondary contaminant problems can be quite a bit more complex than they appear.
The solutions we recommend are based on the problem and the most applicable technology. We are generally far more knowledgeable than your local treatment equipment provider, and that includes those that represent nationally advertised brand names. We will research the problem and provide the most applicable solution, regardless of equipment supplier.