Total coliform bacteria are a collection of relatively harmless microorganisms that live in large numbers in the intestines of man and warm-
and cold-blooded animals. They aid in the digestion of food.
The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in aquatic environments indicates that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of man or other animals. The presence of fecal contamination is an indicator that a potential health risk exists for individuals exposed to this water.
Fecal coliform bacteria may occur in ambient water as a result of the overflow of domestic sewage or nonpoint sources of human and animal waste.
If a large number of fecal coliform bacteria (over 200 colonies/100 milliliters (ml) of water sample) are found in water, it is possible that disease- or illness-causing organisms are also present in the water. Swimming in waters with high levels of fecal coliform bacteria increases the chance of developing illness from pathogens entering the body through the mouth, nose, ears, or cuts in the skin. Diseases and illnesses that can be contracted in water with high fecal coliform counts include typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, dysentery and ear infections