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There’s Bacteria in My Water?!

If you are on a municipal system with chlorine or chloramine, theoretically you are protected against bacteria. However, if the chlorine level is not high enough from the municipal source all the way to your tap, bacteria can re-infect the water at any point. The piping system (whether the main lines or your in-house plumbing) is always subject to bacterial growth.

If you are on a spring or a well without chlorine, you are vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Even the purest sources cannot prevent occasional contamination from animals either dying or defecating in the water, or from neighboring pollution (i.e. septic tanks) traveling from an adjoining aquifer. Again, the pipes themselves are a source of bacteria.

Many periodically test their well or spring source for assurance of good water quality. There are problems, however, with testing: 

First, the test is only applicable at the time of sampling. Bacteria can bloom (when conditions are right) hours, days, or weeks after the testing, and therefore remain undetected. 

Second, testing can be very expensive. The basic ones test levels of bacteria, sediment and decaying organic matter, and total dissolved solids (mineral levels such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and sulfur). With additional testing, the price goes up per item. Lead, asbestos, and specific chemical contaminants are more difficult and therefore much more expensive to test.
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