Bacteria testing

Survey shows why using proper testing equipment is vital to water treatment professionals

Water analysis involves more than just testing for hardness, TDS and iron. Using the proper testing equipment provides the experienced water treatment professional more than just a free test to get inside the homeowner’s door. A good analysis provides the professional with the information to make educated decisions based on sound facts of chemistry and not the dog and pony show tactics to close a sale.

Bacterial testing should become a routine part of a dealer’s sales call or installation. With the concern of private wells not being tested in many states, except for home sales, homeowners should be educated about the importance of annual or semi-annual bacterial testing. The tests are easy, affordable, and offer a peace of mind to the people drinking the water.

It is known that stinky, smelly water can be caused by bacterial problems. While in search of solution for our customers’ well water issues, testing for bacteria proved accurate and easy when using the Aquasure Pro 3000 and the Intellicheck TCE test kit. The tests were affordable and easy to perform and the results were very accurate, reliable and fast.

Survey

We conducted a survey on well-water customers that called us and complained of bad smelling water. The well water was tested and if there was treatment present, influent water and effluent water were both tested. The results were very interesting. We tested 10 homeowner’s wells along with some business wells. Eight of the 10 homeowner’s wells were contaminated with bacteria. We performed a total of 32 tests, between homeowners and businesses, and 16 of these tests were positive for Coliform bacteria. Although, this represents a small sample of wells and tests, the study still revealed an 80% positive result for the homeowners and 50% overall including the businesses. This study, along with others performed by professionals in the past lead us to believe that bacteria is getting into wells and dealers need to help educate their customers and perform services to help protect them from drinking tainted water.

Aquasure Pro 3000
& Intellicheck TCE

The Aquasure Pro 3000 was chosen for this study because of its portability and ease of use. The microprocessor monitored the temperature as well as any power interruptions. It ensured a constant 35° C (±0.5° C) temperature throughout the entire incubation period. It enabled testing to be done on weekends and reduced transportation times and costs associated with laboratories. This also prevented holding time errors and re-sampling costs. The test provided fast 24-hour turnaround on results, which allowed for quick action if there was contamination. This could be very important when testing during storms or other emergency situations when water is a critical factor for health issues.

The Intellicheck TCE is U.S. EPA approved and accredited. It provides a positive Coliform or E.coli color change with 1 CFU/100 mls. These are globally approved methods of WHO, AWWA-APHA, etc.

Laboratory Testing

The use of a state-certified lab is always recommended in situations where bacterial problems may cause health issues with the public and proper treatment should be performed. Private wells however, are not regulated, but water dealers should be informing their customers about bacterial problems and other testing that could be conducted. This is also another source of revenue and diverse product line that could increase sales and market visibility for the dealer.

Local health departments and state certified labs can perform these tests, but there are certain criteria and time-restraints that make a portable system very attractive. This study was not meant as a sales tactic for the test, it is a valuable informational tool. It can help diagnose a problem water source. The results can later be confirmed with a state certified lab to concur the findings and make the proper assessment for the customer. Testing water needs to be done more analytically and more parameters need to be tested in many cases to design the proper treatment.

Problem Wells

After conducting the tests and concluding which wells were in need of clorination, we found several other problems. One well had spider webs and other bugs in the cap that could have easily dropped into the well and caused the contamination.

Another well cap was hidden within some landscaping and was below the surface of the ground and the well cap was caked with dirt and debris. Every time it rained hard, the dirt was washed into the well. Yet another well was full of grass clippings and had to be cleaned. When a well draws water it creates a vacuum and because the well was not sealed it sucked in the grass from the lawn mower. This created a breeding ground for bugs to enter into the well system.

There are various possibilities that could cause well contamination, such as the aquifer being polluted upstream, but nonetheless, testing reveals information that sometimes cannot be seen or smelled.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the implementation of a test unit such as the Aquasure Pro 3000, or whether you use the services of a local health department or certified lab, bacterial testing needs to be conducted and the homeowners must be educated on protecting their well heads. This test survey was a fantastic way to evaluate a good product and more products need to be tested in real life scenarios and reported from third-party end-users. Lab situations are an effective means of testing products, but real world applications can sometimes alter the perfect world that the lab provides. This product proved very useful, it was very accurate and easy to operate.

This survey also showed that bacterial tests on private wells should be conducted. States need to get more stringent with homeowners on testing practices. A few states are requiring testing, but more needs to be done to educate homeowners.

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Jeff Roseman CWS-IV is owner of Aqua Ion Plus Technologies, Inc., La Porte, Ind., and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Water Quality Products. Roseman has a background in physics and chemistry from studies in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University. He can be reached at 219.362.7279, or by e-mail at jeff@aquaionplus.com.

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