What is E. coli and what should I do if it is in my drinking water?

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Episode Number: 132

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Location Taken: US

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Hello and welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time and big on science. I'm Dane Klima. Today's question is about drinking water.

What is E. coli and what should I do if it is in my drinking water?

First let's talk about what E. coli is. It is a type of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. The presence of E. coli in water is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

Public water supplies are usually disinfected with chlorine, ozone, or some other process. Finding E. coli in a public water supply indicates that the disinfection process was not working, or that contact with the waste occurred after the water was treated. If your sample was from a public water supply, you should notify the supplier.

If you suspect the water source, whether public or private, may still be contaminated, you should consider drinking bottled water, boiling your drinking water, or treating it with iodine, bleach, or disinfection tablets.

For more information, you can read EPA's fact sheet on emergency disinfection of drinking water at epa.gov/safewater/ecoli.html.

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