Bacteria are microscopic, unicellular organisms that divide through cell division.
They are found in almost every type of environment on Earth and can have a variety of different functions depending on the species.
- Are a collection of bacteria that aid in the digestion of food
- Live in colonies in the intestines of warm- and cold-blooded
Fecal Coliform Bacteria
- Are a subgroup of coliform bacteria that are associated only with the fecal matter of warm-blooded animals
- When found in high concentrations can act as indicators for the
presence of other disease-causing microorganisms such as Giardia or
Why should I care?
The presence of fecal coliform bacteria indicates that there are feces
from a warm-blooded animal contaminating the water. Escherichia coli (E.
coli) is the most common form of fecal coliform bacteria and although
normally present in the digestive tract of humans and other mammals, contact
with outside strains can lead to infection and serious illness.
The more closely related the animal is to humans, the greater the chances
are for infection to occur if humans come in contact with the bacteria
either through drinking contaminated water or while swimming. Ingestion
of other organisms who may have accumulated the bacteria in their system may
also result in infection.
In 1998, 11 of Lake Whatcom's tributaries were listed as impaired
water bodies because they failed to meet state water quality standards due to
high fecal coliform counts. The resulting water quality problems triggered
a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study by the Washington Department of
How does fecal coliform bacteria enter our lakes and streams?
The most common sources for E. coli include:
- Hobby farms
- Faulty septic systems and leaking sewers
- Waste from pets and wildlife
Just a few grams of pet waste can contain millions of fecal coliform
What can I do to help?