The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates maximum pollutant concentrations (MCLs) and standards for viruses and bacteria which are considered pathogens. Some of the most significant microbial contaminants, such as Legionella, Enteroviruses, Coliforms can cause digestive problems and symptoms similar to those of influenza which are usually attributed to poorly cooked or poorly stored foods.
What is bacteria?
Bacteria: is unicellular microorganisms that do not have well-defined nuclear membranes and other specialized functional cell parts that reproduce by cell division or spores. Bacteria can be both independent organisms and parasites. Bacteria (with fungi) are decomposers that break down feces and bodies of dead organisms, making their components available for reuse. They are found almost everywhere on the planet. Some bacteria are beneficial to humans and others are harmful.
What are viruses?
Viruses are infectious parasitic microbes and are the smallest forms of microorganisms capable of causing disease, in particular those that originate from feces and are transmitted by water to humans. It consists almost entirely of proteins and nucleic acids. Viruses can only reproduce in living cells.
Common waterborne bacteria and viruses and their health concerns
● Legionella: a bacterium that occurs naturally in the environment – usually in water, and flourishes in warm waters. These bacteria in the water are harmful to health if inhaled (for example, in the bathroom or the air conditioning system), resulting in a type of pneumonia known as Legionary disease.
● Enteroviruses Are small viruses, such as polioviruses, echoviruses, and coxsackievirus, that live in the intestines of humans; In addition to the three different polioviruses, 62 nonpolio enteroviruses can cause diseases in humans ranging from gastroenteritis to meningitis.
Bacteria and viruses may also be considered as indicators. The following are some of the viral and bacterial indicators regulated by the EPA and their potential problems:
● Turbidity: refers to water contamination and, although it is not bacteria or viruses, it can interfere with disinfection and provide an environment conducive to the growth of microbes and bacteria or viruses. These pathogens produce symptoms like nausea and diarrhea, Cramping, and headache.
● Fecal coliforms or alkaloids are bacteria that occur naturally in the environment and are used to indicate the possible presence of other potentially harmful bacteria (a warning sign).
● Stool, enterococci, or coliform indicators: are microbes that may indicate the presence of human or animal waste in water; They may cause short-term health effects, including cramps, nausea, diarrhea, headache, and more, and may pose a higher risk to those with severely compromised immune systems, the elderly, young children and infants. (Enterococci are indicators of bacterial fecal contamination and coliphages are viruses that infect Escherichia coli).
● Cysts: capsules or protective bags produced by certain bacteria and algae as a preparation to enter the resting or specialized reproduction stage. Like spores, cysts tend to be more resistant to destructive disinfection. Luckily, primary cysts vary in diameter from 2 to 50 microns and can be removed from water by microfiltration.
Water pollution is a global problem and the global community is facing the worst results from water pollution. The major sources of water pollution are discharges of domestic and agricultural waste, population growth, excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, and urbanization. Bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases spill into polluted waters and affect human health. It is recommended that there be an appropriate waste disposal system and that waste be treated before entry into the river. Education and awareness programs should be set up to monitor pollution.