Last week, Houston went through a bit of a scare with its drinking water, where a boil-water notice was issued for all of Harris County due to the presence of E. coli, a bacteria known to cause numerous health problems if ingested. While the order was later rescinded – after it was retested and found to have what’s known as “total coliform bacteria,” not E. coli – the threat remains. (Total coliform bacteria are naturally found in the environment, and the waste matter of humans and animals, and generally harmless.)
E. coli, on the other hand, is a fecal coliform that comes from human or animal waste, which can cause symptoms of diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. Drinking water contaminated with E. coli can pose a greater health risk for infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems. About 200 people each year die of E. coli contamination in the United States.
Has E. coli Been Found in Houston Water Before?
Yes. Aside from this recent incident which turned out to be a different bacteria/coliform, Houston’s water has been found to have the presence of significant E. coli concentrations and its threat to the area remains. In 2017, after flooding from Hurricane Harvey caused sewers to overflow, one home was found to have 135 times the level of E. coli bacteria that is considered safe.
How Does E. coli Get Into the Water Supply?
Some research suggests that the increase in the presence of the more harmful version of the E. coli bacteria has come from the switch to feeding cows and other farm animals grains such as corn, rather than the more natural diet of grass. The cows pass on this harmful E. coli through waste and when they are slaughtered. The waste gets into the water system through runoffs from heavy storms – especially when sewers overflow as happened during Hurricane Harvey. E. coli also can be present in the meat or vegetables that are exposed to it.
How Do You Combat E. coli in the Water Supply?
As you can see from the recent boil-water notice in Harris County, the ability of municipal water treatment systems to remove this kind of harmful bacteria from your drinking water is sometimes limited. One thing you can do if you’re concerned about bacteria such as E. coli or other contaminants is to get a point-of-use reverse osmosis system that we offer at Houston Water Solutions.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is basically a water purification process, which uses a partially permeable membrane to separate contaminants, unwanted molecules, and other particles from drinking water. In most cases, a total RO system is actually made up of 3 or 4 different levels of filtration (including one reverse-osmosis-specific filter).
One tip: If you already have a reverse osmosis filtration system and there is an E. coli boil-water notice, make sure to change out your filters soon after the notice is lifted.
We hope this article has been helpful to you. Contact us today and we’ll schedule some time to talk more about our solutions for water filtration and water softening that can help you get more confident about your water.