Although the title of this blog posting sounds terribly bad, no one fell ill because of the bacteria found in a Connecticut school recently. Why? Because school officials perform routine water testing on the water.

GUILFORD — Administrators are promising to soon remedy an elementary school’s well water problem that may have been caused by the area’s past agricultural uses.

Tests of a well providing drinking water to part of Melissa Jones Elementary School, the only school in town using well water, showed a presence of more coliform bacteria, or E. coli, than standards allow. Coliform is a marker for potentially harmful bacteria, Principal Paula McCarthy wrote to parents in an e-mail alert Monday.

The well will be rechlorinated, and any sinks or water fountains currently closed will be open by the time students return from winter break Jan. 4, school board Chairman William Bloss said. So far no children or faculty have reported illnesses caused by drinking the water, he said, and there are other wells bringing clean, safe water to the rest of the building.

“I think the feeling is it’s from the historical agricultural use of the land in that area and fertilizer run-off, and waste run-off, because obviously in a well, you’re working with groundwater and eventually anything in there works way into ground water,” Bloss said.

Sinks and water fountains in the gym and upstairs hall have been closed and instant sanitizer pumps have been used for hand washing in those areas, according to the principal’s message.

Alan Meyers, a doctor and school board member, said more than 90 percent of E. coli strains are safe, but they are markers of contamination.

“It’s a normal constituent of feces. It could come from cows across the street or humans or anywhere,” Meyers said. “So far, no one has gotten sick, so it’s just good that it’s monitored.”

Dangerous strains of E. coli are sometimes found in hamburger meat and can cause serious illness, but that’s not what Melissa Jones Elementary School test results showed, Meyers explained.

Officials say they faced the same situation last spring and a few years ago, which is why the water is tested once per quarter.

“It’s not a question of the system being outdated. It’s because of the type of groundwater in north Guilford,” he said.

The cost to rechlorinate the well is “not prohibitive,” Bloss said, and it’s “very much secondary to making sure we are meeting all guidelines on water quality.”

The system flush will take two weeks and water will be retested, said Cliff Gurnham, director of operations and facilities.

He said school administrators have investigated piping water in and determined it would have to be piped from Abraham Baldwin Middle School, which also once relied on well water. However, high costs have ruled out that option, Gurnham said.

Susan Misur can be reached at “smisur ‘at’”. ( source )

As usual, the virtue of periodic well water testing for critical water parameters (like coliform bacteria) proved its worth. Had school officials not acted proactively, they might have wound up with an entire school full of sick students and faculty.

More importantly, in some people’s minds, the simple and relatively inexpensive quarterly checks for coliform bacteria probablysaved the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lawsuits.

So now the question most of us ought to ask ourselves naturally becomes, “When was the last time MY child’s school or daycare had ITS water tested for coliform bacteria?” — especially if the school draws its water from a well and resides in a former or current agricultural/farming region.

48 Hour Presence/Absence Coliform Bacteria Test
Presence/Absence Coliform Bacteria Test
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Lead in Water Test
Lead in Water Test
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