What are the bacteriological contaminants found in Carroll County?

The great majority of water supplies coming from wells are free of bacterial contamination in CC. However, in the more western portions of the county where soils originate from the Redlands/Triassic substrate, contamination rates can be as high as 5-10%. In these areas, including portions of New Windsor, Union Bridge, Taneytown and towards Frederick, porous soils more readily allow contaminants from poorly maintained or placed septic systems to leach into water supplies.

What are E. Coli and Coliform Bacteria?

Escherichia coli , (more commonly known as E. coli ), is a common intestinal bacterium found in sewage along with other microorganisms. It is typically used as;

  • an indication of the amount of sewage present in water, and
  • as an indirect measure of the presence of other disease causing agents
    ( viruses, parasites, other bacteria)

E. Coli was, until recently, thought as an excellent means for monitoring sewage as it is not found in the environment except in human and animal feces where it flourishes. Ed Singer of the CCHD, along with other water quality specialists, have now discovered that other species including earwigs, may infect water supplies with these microbes ( see below).

Why should we be concerned about contaminated water supplies?

Coliform bacterium themselves don't cause disease ( unless you are exposed to a foreign strain, as when you visit other countries) .The presence of these bacteria in drinking water is the result of a problem with water treatment or pipes which distribute the water and indicates the water may be contaminated with other organisms that can cause disease.

Symptoms that indicate you may have these disease contaminants in your water are:

  • Many of the bacteria result in:

    severe diarrhea, intense cramps, mucus & blood in the stools, nausea, associated headaches & fatigue, abdominal pain,.

  • Viruses such as Hepatitis virus A can cause inflammation of the liver, fever, headaches , nausea, vomiting, severe loss of appetite, aching in the muscles.

  

    What about those earwigs you mentioned earlier?

    You are probably wondering how a water supply would get contaminated by such a creature! Facts you should know about earwigs are:

    • Earwigs are about an inch long and a quarter-inch wide and have a fierce looking pincer.
    • They do not pose much of a problem except in wells because of the bacteria they bring with them.
    • They live in damp areas around, underneath or in vegetation. They are often found under wood piles, lumber and around building foundations. The cool, moist environment of a well provides earwigs with a perfect home.
    • Wells near woodpiles and shrubs with mulch can become infested with these bugs!
    • Earwigs can bring harmful bacteria, viruses and microbes with them which can cause illnesses.

     

    How do you get rid of the Earwigs once they have entered your well?

    1. Clean away the debris such as wood piles and vegetation from around the well.

    2. Install a vermin-proof well cap or seal to prevent Earwigs from entering the well. The cap has a gasket around the inside to prevent entry of insects but has a screened vent to allow air in the well. This cap costs $75-$150 depending on the type and who installs it.

    3. Treat your well with chlorine to kill any bacteria present.

    4. Physically remove earwigs from the well if repeat treatments with chlorine have not solved your bacteria problem.

    5. Get your well water tested for Coliform Bacteria once a year if you suspect the problem has not been completely addressed.

    ****This information was compiled from brochures given to us by the Carroll County Health Department.

    ****If you have any further questions about Earwigs please call the Carroll County Health Department, Bureau of Environmental Health.

    Compiled by Stephanie Price, Western Maryland College

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