The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 592 of Wyoming's public water systems achieved perfect compliance with the total coliform (bacteria) rule in 2003. This represents 80 percent of all public water systems in Wyoming, up from 74 percent last year.
The total coliform rule requires each public water system to test for coliforms. The frequency and number of tests vary with the size and classification of the water system. A water system that exceeds its limit of total coliforms in a reporting period (monthly or quarterly) has a violation called a maximum contaminant level (MCL) exceedance. A water system that does not get its samples to the lab on time has a failure to monitor violation. Perfect compliance means these public water systems had no MCL exceedances or failure to monitor violations for an entire year.
AEPA appreciates the State of Wyoming and its drinking water operators for a job well done. Most of Wyoming=s water systems continue to strive to stay in compliance and deliver safe drinking water to their customers, EPA total coliform rule manager Charla Colson said.
"Coliform bacteria is used as an indicator organism. In other words, if coliform bacteria is found in the water, it is further tested for E-coli or fecal coliform. If either of these bacteria are found, the customers are alerted, and a boil order may be imposed," Colson explained. "Coliform bacteria are naturally found in the environment. The presence of most coliform bacteria in drinking water does not pose a health threat. Also, most E-coli and fecal coliform bacteria are not harmful, although if either is found, extreme care is necessary. Extra care is needed due to the possibility that one of the harmful bacteria may be present and could cause a disease outbreak. This is the reason EPA requires water system operators to take follow-up samples after total coliform bacteria is found in their water.
Total coliforms are but one of 60+ contaminants for which public water systems may be required to test. Community water systems -- public water systems with 15 or more taps serving a permanent population of more than 25 residents -- must report annually on their test results and any violations. Community water systems are required to report summary findings through Consumer Confidence Reports, which are available to the public on July 1.
The list of water systems in compliance, organized by county, is available at http://epa.gov/region8/water/dwhome/wycon/dwdrink.html  or call Charla Colson at 800 227-8917 x6280. For more information about bacterial contamination in drinking water, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.