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Required by lenders when a property being transferred or refinanced is equipped with a private water well for drinking. When a private water well has been certified for drinking use in Virginia, it means a State Certified Lab like ours has analyzed a representative water sample from the well for the presence of two organisms; Total Coliform and E. Coli.

What are Coliforms?
Coliforms are a group of bacteria found in plant material, water and soil. Coliforms are also present in the digestive tracts and feces of humans and animals. Most of the time but with no certainty, these bacteria are not harmful.

Why test for coliforms?
Those responsible for new or transferred private water wells and water systems test for indicators such as total coliform or E. coli to monitor water quality. If the water source has a positive test results for one of these indicators, it can mean past or recent contamination with soil or human feces.

What does a positive coliform test result mean?
A positive coliform test means possible contamination and risk of a waterborne disease. A positive test for total coliform requires more tests for E. coli. A confirmed positive test for E. coli means you need to take action as advised by your water well professional or water system provider.

Will coliform bacteria make me sick?
Most coliform bacteria are a normal part of the environment. They do not cause disease but do indicate the water might be contaminated by soil or feces. Some rare but ever present types of coliforms such as E. coli can cause serious illness. Although most E. coli outbreaks are from eating contaminated raw or undercooked food, cases from contaminated drinking water can occur, are less likely but just as illness causing.


Why test for indicator organisms?
A biological pathogen is any organism, such as bacteria, virus, protozoa or parasite that causes a disease. Biological pathogens are commonly called “germs”. There are many different possible pathogens. It is not possible to test for every type of pathogen in every water sample so water providers use indicators instead.

What are indicator organisms?
Indicator organisms come from the same sources as organisms that make you sick. Indicator organisms are easier to identify, are present in larger numbers and respond to water treatment the same way as harmful bacteria and other biological pathogens. A biological pathogen is any organism such a s bacteria, virus, protozoa or parasite that causes disease.

Total coliforms is another term for the full group of coliforms. They are indicators of possible water contamination.

E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a species of fecal coliform bacteria. E. Coli almost always comes from mammalian waste. E. coli is considered the best indicator of fecal water contamination. If E.coli is present, harmful bacteria and other pathogens are also more than likely present.

The most important thing to take away from the above information is that total coliform come from the same sources as E. coli and other bacteria and organisms that could make you ill.