Faecal coliforms, also known as thermotolerant coliforms, are a subset of the total coliform group. Faecal coliforms are present in the gut and faeces of warm-blooded animals.
Most types of coliform bacteria are harmless to humans, but some can cause mild illness, and a few can lead to serious waterborne diseases. The symptoms of illness associated with faecal coliforms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually include an upset stomach, diarrhoea, ear infections and rashes
Faecal/thermotolerant coliforms are present in a variety of applications. Below we outline where you may find them and why they should be monitored.
Faecal coliforms can enter the water through environmental contamination such as waste from mammals or birds, agricultural runoff and untreated human sewage. Treatment to remove them includes filtration and purification.
The WHO state that for all water intended for drinking and treated water entering the distribution system thermotolerant coliforms must not be detected in any 100 mL sample. If a water sample tests positive for faecal coliforms immediate investigative action must be taken. This is usually repeat sampling, and if these bacteria are present in the repeat sample then the cause must be investigated immediately.
The US EPA state that a water sample is unsafe if there are any coliform bacteria present in the water sample. Additionally, the DWI doesn’t give a specific value for thermotolerant coliforms, but they do state a maximum number per 100 mL for E. coli in drinking water at 0.
Faecal contamination in pools and spas occurs when an individual has an accidental faeces release or when faecal matter is washed off a swimmer’s body. If faecal coliforms are present, it indicates that there is the possibility that other bacteria such as salmonella may be present. Microbiological testing of pools and spas should be carried out monthly.
For more information on which parameters you should be testing in your pool and spa download our pool chemistry guide.
Agricultural practices such as allowing animal waste to wash into nearby streams and spreading manure on fields during rainy periods can contribute to faecal coliform contamination. Additionally, septic tanks can become overloaded during rainy periods and can result in untreated human waste flowing into nearby streams and rivers.
In emergency situations, such as natural disasters, water quality must be rapidly assessed to determine water safety. Our expertise and extensive global logistics network means we are always ready to respond to crisis situations.
Our WagtechTM kits use microbiological analysis to rapidly detect the presence of faecal coliforms in water. The kits include a Wagtech incubator which has been specifically designed for microbiological testing in challenging environments. With a high sample capacity of 20 petri dishes, up to five full cycles per battery charge, and mains and battery power options; the incubator enables you to test large volumes of samples in the field. To further increase incubation capacity choose a Wagtech Potalab or Wagtech Potatest 2 which includes two incubators. The Potalab+ is our most advanced portable water quality laboratory, with complete digital instrumentation for laboratory levels of accuracy. View the full range of Wagtech kits here.