A routine check of Grove City’s water system detected a form of bacteria in one of its samples.

Coliform bacteria was found in one of 15 samples taken from a weekly routine test at Grove City’s wastewater treatment plant Jan. 23. While the bacteria itself is generally not harmful, it is used as an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present.

Usually coliform bacteria are a sign that there could be a problem with a system’s treatment or distribution system through its pipes.

When Grove City Water Treatment Plant employees discovered the coliforms, follow-up testing was performed to see if other bacteria was present. None was discovered.

Check samples were taken on Jan. 25 at the same location where the bacteria was found, along with samples at points upstream and downstream. Additional check samples were taken Jan. 28 at the same location.

Subsequent samples taken have shown negative detection of coliform bacteria.

Water treatment plant supervisor Jeff McKee said he did not know why the sample tested positive for bacteria on Jan. 23.

“We took several samples that day and all were negative except one,” he said. “It could have been a sampling or analytical error, but it’s hard to put a finger on what specifically caused it.”

McKee said there were “many different factors in sampling and analyzing,” the biggest one being human error.

According to McKee, the Department of Environmental Protection was also contacted when the bacteria was found. McKee said wastewater plant officials performed the subsequent samples in their own labs and were “in contact with DEP” officials the entire time.

“They looked over our shoulder during the process,” he said.

McKee said the bacteria was no longer an issue, pointing out that the borough experienced a similar incident several years ago.

According to McKee, Grove City’s water system turned up positive for the same type of bacteria a few years ago. Like January’s incident, subsequent tests had shown no signs of coliform bacteria.

“At this point, it’s no big deal,” McKee said. “If it happened on a regular basis, we’d take a hard look at a lot of things (at the treatment plant).”

McKee said if the subsequent tests had come back positive for coliform bacteria, the plant would have “had to super-chorinate the water system until we received a negative sample.”

According to a legal notice published by the borough, Grove City routinely monitors for drinking water contaminants.

While the discovery of the bacteria violated a borough drinking water standard, “the incident was not an emergency,” the legal notice said.

“You do not need to boil your water or take other corrective actions,” the notice read.

However, it also states that “people with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly may be at increased risk” and “should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.”

General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

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