Nutrient-Induced Growth of Coliform and HPC Bacteria in Drinking-Water Pipes


We conducted a study on a model drinking water distribution system to evaluate the impact of nutrient in the form of sodium acetate on the growth and survival of coliform and heterotrophic plate count (HPC) bacteria for a maximum of 21 days residence time of water in pipes. Our results show that, besides the nutrient added and the absence of any additional source of contamination and additional supply of nutrient, there was significant growth of the above mentioned bacteria in the pipes and bottles for a couple of days, after which the bacterial population began to decrease. The results indicate that the bacteria used the nutrient to grow and multiply until the nutrient was totally consumed and became depleted in the bulk water phase, after which the bacterial population reached a near stationary level and subsequently declined. This suggests the death of some of the bacteria and their dead cells were used by other bacteria for growth and survival. Using a detection limit of 3.3 CFU/100 mL for the coliforms, the study shows that after sometime, no bacteria were found in the water phase of the pipe, however, the biofilm in the pipes still harbored some of the bacteria. The results have revealed that the bacteria also have the tendency to move from the water phase to the biofilm since the latter provides a more suitable environment for bacteria to thrive on and grow, thus prolonging their survival in the system.

Share and Cite:

P. Asamoah Sakyi, R. Asare, C. Anani and S. Boakye Dampare, "Nutrient-Induced Growth of Coliform and HPC Bacteria in Drinking-Water Pipes," Journal of Environmental Protection, Vol. 3 No. 6, 2012, pp. 508-517. doi: 10.4236/jep.2012.36061.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] P. Payment, J. Siemiatycki, L. Richardson, G. Renaud, E. Franco and M. Prevost, “A Prospective Epidemiological Study of Gastrointestinal Health Effects Due to the Consumption of Drinking Water,” International Journal of Environmental Health Research, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1997, pp. 5-31. doi:10.1080/09603129773977
[2] World Health Organization, “Guidelines for DrinkingWater Quality. Health Criteria and Other Supporting Information,” International Programme on Chemical Safety, Vol. 2, 1996.
[3] A. Rompre, P. Servais, J. Baudart, M.-R. de-Roubin and P. Laurent, “Detection and Enumeration of Coliforms in Drinking Water: Current Methods and Emerging Approaches,” Journal of Microbiological Methods, Vol. 49, 2002, pp. 31-54. doi:10.1016/S0167-7012(01)00351-7
[4] A. Singh and G. A. McFeters, “Detection Methods for Waterborne Pathogens,” In: R. Mitchell, Ed., Environmental Microbiology, Wiley-Liss, Inc., New York, 1992.
[5] M. J. Allen and S. C. Edberg, “The Public Health Significance of Bacterial indicators in Drinking Water. In: Coliform and E. coli: Problem or Solution?” Special Publications of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Vol. 191, 1997, pp. 176-181.
[6] E. J. Fricker and C. R. Fricker, “Use of the Presence Absence Systems for the Detection of E. coli and Coliforms from Water,” Water Research, Vol. 30, No. 9, 1996, pp. 2226-2228. doi:10.1016/0043-1354(96)00082-6
[7] C. L. Moe, “Waterborne Transmission of Infectious Agents,” In: C. J. Hurst, G. R. Knudsen, M. J. Mclnerney, L. D. Stetzenbach and M. V. Walter, Eds., Manual of Environmental Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology, Washington DC, 1997, pp. 136-152.
[8] S. C. Edberg, S. Kops, C. Kontnick and M. Escarzaga, “Analysis of Cytotoxicity and Invasiveness of Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria (HPC) Isolated from Drinking Water on Blood Media,” Journal of Applied Microbiology, Vol. 82, No. 4, 1997, pp. 455-461. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.1997.00134.x
[9] I. Tryland and L. Fiksdal, “Rapid Enzymatic Detection of Heterotrophic Activity of Environmental Bacteria,” Water Science and Technology, Vol. 38, No. 12, 1998, pp. 95-101. doi:10.1016/S0273-1223(98)00808-7
[10] M. Brandt, J. Clement, J. Powell, R. Casey, D. Holt, N. Harris and C. Ta, “Managing Distribution Retention Time to Improve Water Quality, Phase I,” AwwaRF, Denver, 2004.
[11] L. Evison and N. Sunna, “Microbial Regrowth in Household Water Storage Tanks,” Journal of American Water Works Association, Vol. 93, No. 9, 2001, pp. 85-94.
[12] Milj?styrelsen, “Det Intensive M?leprogram for de Regnvandsbetingede Udl?b,” Report No. 43, 1997.
[13] A. K. Camper, W. L. Jones and J. T. Hayes, “Effect of Growth Conditions and Substratum Composition on the Persistence of Coliforms in Mixed-Population Biofilms,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 62, 1996, pp. 4014-4018.
[14] S. Niemel?, “Statistical Evaluation of Results from Quantitative Microbiological Examinations,” Nordic Committee on Food Analysis, Report No. 1, 1983.
[15] R. Boe-Hansen, “Microbial Growth in Drinking Water Distribution Systems,” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Environment & Resources, Technical University of Denmark, 2001.
[16] F. M. Qureshi, U. Badar and N. Ahmed, “Biosorption of Copper by a Bacterial Biofilm on a Flexible Polyvinyl Chloride Conduit,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 67, No. 9, 2001, pp. 4349-4352. doi:10.1128/AEM.67.9.4349-4352.2001
[17] P. Laurent, P. Servais, M. Prevost, D. Gatel and B. Clement, “Testing the SANCHO Model on Distribution Systems,” Journal of American Water Works Association, Vol. 89, No. 7, 1997, pp. 92-103.
[18] M. Prevost, A. Rompre, J. Coallier, P. Servais, P. Laurent, B. Clement and P. Lafrance, “Suspended Bacterial Biomass and Activity and Full-Scale Drinking Water Distribution Systems: Impact of Water Treatment,” Water Research, Vol. 32, No. 5, 1998, pp. 1393-1406. doi:10.1016/S0043-1354(97)00388-6
[19] M. W. LeChevallier, “Coliform Regrowth in Drinking Water,” Journal of American Water Works Association, Vol. 82, 1990, pp. 74-86.
[20] M. W. LeChevallier, N. J. Welch and J. B. Smith, “FullScale Studies of Factors Related to Coliform Regrowth in Drinking Water,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 62, No. 7, 1996, pp. 2201-2211.
[21] J. C. Block, L. Mouteaux, D. Gatel and D. J. Reasoner, “Survival and Growth of E. coli in Drinking Water Distribution Systems,” Special Publications of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Vol. 191, 1997, pp. 157-167.
[22] S. Fass, M. L. Dincher, D. J. Reasoner, D. Gatel and J.-C. Block, “Fate of Escherichia coli Experimentally Injected in a Drinking Water Distribution Pilot System,” Water Research, Vol. 30, No. 9, 1996, pp. 2215-2221. doi:10.1016/0043-1354(96)00100-5
[23] U. Szewzyk, R. Szewzyk, W. Manz and K.-H. Schleifer, “Microbiological Safety of Drinking Water,” Annual Review of Microbiology, Vol. 54, 2000, pp. 81-127. doi:10.1146/annurev.micro.54.1.81
[24] K. A. Reynolds, “Bacteria in Drinking Water: Public Health Implications?” Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine, Vol. 44, No. 7, 2002.
[25] M. W. LeChevallier and G. A. McFeters, “Interactions between Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria and Coliform Organisms,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 49, 1985, pp. 1338-1341.
[26] A. K. Camper, “Biofilms in Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution,” In: L. V. Evans, Ed., Biofilms: Recent Advances in Their Study and Control, Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, 2000, pp. 311-332.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.