Microbial quality of water supply to an urban community in Trinidad

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Journal: J Food Prot 2002/08/17
Published: 2002
Authors: Agard, L.;Alexander, C.;Green, S.;Jackson, M.;Patel, S.;Adesiyun, A.
Address: School of Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Trinidad.

A microbiological study was conducted to determine the quality of the water supply to an urban community in San Fernando proper in south Trinidad using total coliforms and thermotolerant coliforms as indicators of water pollution. The membrane filter technique was used to detect total coliforms and thermotolerant coliforms on endo agar and MFc agar, respectively. The residual chlorine levels in water from the reservoir, from standpipes along the distribution line, and from households were determined with a commercial test kit. Of a total of 104 drinking water samples obtained from households, 84 (80.8%), 56 (53.8%), and 70 (67.3%) tested positive for total coliforms, thermotolerant coliforms, and Escherichia coli, respectively. The difference was statistically significant (P < 0.05, chi2). Of the 81 water samples collected from the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) main supply to households, 38 (46.9%), 13 (16.0%), and 27 (33.3%) were contaminated by total coliforms, thermotolerant coliforms, and E. coli, respectively, and the difference was statistically significant (P < 0.05, chi2). Eight (20.5%) of 39 water samples from standpipes along the distribution line tested positive for total coliforms, compared with 4 (10.3%) samples testing positive for thermotolerant coliforms. All five samples of treated water obtained from the reservoir tested negative for coliforms. There was a significant difference (P = 0.004) in the mean residual chlorine levels in water from the reservoir, water from standpipes, and water from households. Similarly, as the level of residual chlorine decreased, there was a statistically significant (P = 0.004) increase in the prevalence of total coliforms in water from 0.0% (treated reservoir water) to 15.2% (standpipe) to 53.5% (household mains) to 80.0% (household drinking water). There was also a statistically significant difference (P < 0.001, chi2) in the prevalence of total coliforms in drinking water and in water from the WASA main supply to households. Of the 105 E. coli strains tested, 7 (6.7%), 16 (15.2%), and 22 (21.0%) were mucoid, hemolytic, and non-sorbitol fermenters, respectively. It was concluded that the high degree of contamination of drinking water in households poses a health hazard to consumers.

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