The objective of this study was to develop a method to monitor the microbial quality of treated drinking water at the tap utilizing point-of-use filter systems that are placed in water vending machines. Such vending machines have high-volume water throughput and allow for an evaluation of the occurrence of human enteric pathogens and fecal indicator bacteria in tap water over extended time periods. Seeded experiments, using Escherichia coli and bacteriophage MS-2, were performed on (i) new filters, (ii) artificially aged filters, and (iii) filters that had been used in the field (naturally aged filters) to evaluate the efficiency of recovery of these organisms from the three-component filter set (30 μm, 5 μm, solid block carbon (SBC)) by evaluating each filter independently. SBC filters had the highest recovery of the organisms, averaging recovery of 27% and 5% for E. coli and MS-2, respectively. Subsequently, tap water supplies were monitored in vending machines throughout Southern Arizona using SBC filters as a monitoring tool. A total of 48 filters from 41 unique site locations were surveyed for the presence of total coliforms, E. coli, enterococci, Cryptosporidium, enteroviruses, and noroviruses. Organisms were detected following the passage of large volumes of water ranging from 1 000 to 17 000 L through the filters. Out of 48 SBC filters 54.2% were positive for at least one organism. The number of filters positive for total coliforms, E. coli, enterococci, and enterovirus was 13, 5, 19, and 3, respectively, corresponding to 27.1%, 10.4%, 39.6%, and 6.3% of the total filters. No filters were positive for noroviruses or Cryptosporidium. These results suggest that the SBC filter can be used to monitor large volumes of treated drinking water and detect the incidence of indicators and pathogens that may be present at low concentrations. These data show that post-treated water often contains water quality indicator and pathogenic organisms at the tap, and therefore, monitoring with this method would be beneficial to the community as it allows for an assessment of exposure to pathogens and associative risks. This monitoring tool will also aid in the tracking of outbreaks and the determination of the microbial pathogen load during all stages of an outbreak as a filter can be installed and retrieved at the point-of-use at anytime during an outbreak.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry