by Jim Bynum
Fecal coliform is the name of a test used by EPA's Office of Water whose charter appears to only
organisms and mammals found in water. The implication is that coliform bacteria which grow
at an elevated temperature of 44.5° C. (112.1° F) such as E. coli, Salmonella, klebsiella, etc., are found
in marine mammals and do not harm animals & humans. See
list of Studies
The human body will die at an internal temperature of 42.5° C. (108.5° F)

Since 1919,  scientists have known, "The maximum temperature for the pathogenic bacteria is about
45°C. Their optimum temperature is about 37.50C."

Since then the line has blurred and names have changed. The Actinobacteria and nocardia bacteria
are  soil-inhabiting microorganisms that now cause brain and other organ abscesses in humans.

Also see bacterial index for
Heterotrophic pathogenic Etiologic agents

Fecal Coliform Bacteria: Bacteria found in the intestinal tracts of mammals. Their presence in water
or sludge is an indicator of pollution and possible contamination by pathogens.

total coliforms  [pathogens that grow at 37.50C] are common inhabitants of ambient water and may be
injured by environmental stresses (e.g., lack of nutrients) and water treatment (e.g., chlorine
disinfection) [or heat] in a manner similar to most bacterial pathogens and many viral enteric

On average a whale's body temperature is a couple degrees more then humans (98.6° F) but varies
with each whale species.

Fecal coliform is the standard EPA uses to assure the public of the safety of drinking water, reclaimed
water as well as sewage sludge used as biosolids soil amendment and fertilizer. For EPA testing
standards, Escherichia coli is the primary fecal coliform. EPA allows two million E. coli bacteria per
gram of Class B sludge. That is 56 million most probable number of E. coli per ounce of sludge
biosolids. That would hardly qualify as sterile biosolids where the pathogens have been destroyed.

According to a study by
JOSE L. ALONSO, et.al., (May 1999), "Since fecal coliforms are not defined
Escherichia coli is the only member species for which standardized data exists."
The standard test procedure showing E. coli growth is run at a temperature of 44.5° C. (112.1° F) for
24 hours. On the other hand, the human body will die at an internal temperature of 42.5° C. (108.5° F)
and blood is said to coagulate at 42.6° C (108.68° F). The question then becomes, are the test really
showing E. coli from the human gut?

Any so called study puts public health at risk by discussing  heat inhibited thermotolerant antibiotic
resistant E. coli  known in the wastewater industry as fecal coliform. Heat inhibited E. coli (fecal
coliform) are incubated at 112.1 deg F for 24 hours before the colonies are counted to determine the
most probable number of single bacteria at the beginning of the test one day earlier. Sludge/biosolids
is considered Class A if there are less than 1,000 colonies at the end of the test. The high heat of the
fecal coliform test inactivates many of the bacteria since the optimum growth rate for E. coli
(coliform) is 98.6 deg F when incubated for 24 hours. At the optimum temperature E. coli will double
every 20 minutes. As an example, if there was only one (1) E. coli bacteria at the start of the test
doubling every 20 minutes, in 12 hours the colony would be composed of 68 billion, 719 million, 476
thousand, 736 hundred (68,719,4 76, 736) bacteria. That would be counted as one (1) most probable
number (MPN) colony forming unit (CFU) for the test result and the test still has 12 hours left -- but
it would still
be counted as one MPN.

"organisms have evolved to survive at different temperatures. Mesophiles exhibit optimum growth in
the 20-37° C range, whereas thermophiles grow optimally in the 50-70° C range, and extreme
thermophiles at > 65° C."   So why would EPA develop a test to find a bacteria that grows between the
Mesophile and thermophile temperature range?

Outside the human gut, E. coli is a pathogen that will actually form biofilms in other parts of the body
including the urinary tract and heart. The fecal coliform test used for drinking water tells us nothing
about the E. coli that grows at human body temperature or the changes due to antibiotic treatment for
diseases such as Urinary tract infections that may be caused by bathing in contaminated drinking
water or dental diseases caused by bacteria not shown in the test.

    Infections of the urinary tract are the second most common type of infection in the body.
    Urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for about 8.3 million doctor visits each year.*

    Research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that one factor
    behind recurrent UTIs may be the ability of bacteria to attach to cells lining the urinary
    tract. A recent NIH-funded study found that bacteria formed a protective film on the
    inner lining of the bladder in mice.

    Many women suffer from frequent UTIs. Nearly 20 percent of women who have a UTI will
    have another, and 30 percent of those will have yet another. Of the last group, 80 percent
    will have recurrences. Most infections arise from one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E.
    coli), which normally lives in the colon.

    Usually, the latest infection stems from a strain or type of bacteria that is different from
    the infection before it, indicating a separate infection. Even when several UTIs in a row
    are due to E. coli, slight differences in the bacteria indicate distinct infections.

    Microorganisms called Chlamydia and Mycoplasma may also cause UTIs in both men and
    women, Some microbes, like Chlamydia and Mycoplasma, can be detected only with
    special bacterial cultures.

If Total Coliform are the pathogenic enterobacteriaceae family of enteric bacteria, including E. coli,
found in the intestinal tract  of animals and humans, why would EPA imply that fecal coliform is
something other than pathogenic and nonpathogenic E. coli from the same source when sewage
effluents (sludge/biosolids, and reclaimed water) are involved? What is alarming is that E. coli 0157:H7
doesn't show up in the coliform test even when it grows at 44.5° C. (112.1° F).  

A sub group of
total coliforms are called fecal coliforms, and are defined by their ability to ferment
lactose at elevated incubation temperatures. Fecal coliforms are primarily Escherichia coli, although
Klebsiella pneumoniae can occasionally grow at 44.5°C.

However, according to EPA, they might not ferment lactose if they are injured,  “
Total coliforms are a
group of closely related bacteria that are (with few exceptions) not harmful to humans. Because total
coliforms are common inhabitants of ambient water and may be injured by environmental stresses (e.
g., lack of nutrients) and water treatment (e.g., chlorine disinfection) [elevated heat of the test] in a
manner similar to most
bacterial (index) pathogens and many viral enteric (index) pathogens, EPA
considers them a useful indicator of these pathogens."

What we have is some very damaging fact sandwiched between two half-truths or lies. The operative
words are (with few exceptions)
coliforms are harmful pathogens to humans. As I understand the
science, there are wild E. coli strains, tame commercial recombinant Escherichia coli Host strains, and
at least 200  0:H E. coil strains such as 0157:H7.  E. coli is the primary member of the coliform group
with the ability to ferment lactose at 44.5 C  (112.1°F) within 24 hours. The fermented lactose cause
the test sample to change colors. Verification of E. coli is achieved by a color change Yellow = total
coliforms, Yellow/fluorescent = E. coli. Twenty-four hours later you can get a most probable number of
viable E. coli. After 28 hours, many of the injured coliforms start to recover viability and that voids
the test.

However, there is a problem using the  fecal coliform test on reclaimed water and sludge/biosolids.
Unlike other E. coli, isolates of serotype O157:H7 do not ferment D-sorbitol within 24 h, lack-
glucuronidase activity, and did not normally grow at 44.5°C"  

However, a recent study,
July 2007, found thermotolerant 04 (Uropathogenic E. coli, UPEC), 025
(Enterotoxigenic E. coli, ETEC), 086 (Enteropathogenic E. coli, EPEC), 0103 (Shiga-toxin producing E.
coli, STEC), 0157 (Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, STEC), 08 (Enterotoxigenic E. coli, ETEC) and 0113
(Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, STEC) in drinking water systems.

To verify the facts, I went to EPA's expert Mark Meckes.

In a message dated 7/16/2007 10:44:11 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Meckes.Mark@epamail.epa.gov writes:

"Fecal indicator bacteria are used to assess the microbiological quality of water because although not
typically disease causing, they may be found in relatively high densities following a pollution event and
they have been (but are not always) detected in concert with some  waterborne disease-causing
(pathogenic) organisms."

An example would be the 1993 Milwaukee Drinking Water cryptosporidiosis Outbreak. "When disease
case estimates were adjusted for normal background diarrheal disease rates, investigators estimated
that 403,000 residents of the five-county area experienced illness caused by the cryptosporidiosis
outbreak (6). Of this group, an estimated 354,600 persons (88%) did not seek medical attention;
44,000 persons (11%) were seen as outpatients; and 4,400 persons (1%) were hospitalized."  Various
estimates for deaths have ranged from just a few to over 400.  

While the initial response blamed it on manure, 4 years later CDC responded: "of the isolates tested
in experimental infection studies, none could successfully infect laboratory animals. These results lead
us to suggest the possibility of a second transmission cycle that is anthroponotic and maintained
through person-to-person contact or through human sewage contamination of the
water supply."

To further clarify, In a message dated 7/16/2007 12:53:54 .P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Meckes.Mark@epamail.epa.gov writes:

"For example, most strains of Escherichia coli will ferment lactose under the elevated temperature
test for fecal coliform and therefore will meet the definition of "fecal coliform."Similarly, some
strains of Klebsiella will also ferment lactose under these same test conditions and will meet the
definition of "fecal coliform"."
ESCHERICHIA COLI: Besides being the number one cause of human urinary tract infections, E. coli
has been linked to diseases in just about every other part of the body. Pneumonia, meningitis, and
traveler's diarrhea are among the many illnesses that pathogenic strains of E. coli can cause.
Pathogenic strains of E. coli can cause severe cases of diarrhea in all age groups by producing a
powerful endotoxin. [Central America Shigella strain Toxin] Treating E. coli infections with antibiotics
may actually place the patient in severe shock which could possibly lead to death. This is due to the
fact that more of the bacterium's toxin is released when the cell dies.

Klebsiella:  Klebsiella's pathogenicity can be attributed to its production of a heat-stable enterotoxin.  
K. pneumoniae is second only to E. coli as a urinary tract pathogen. Klebsiella infections are
encountered far more often now than in the past. This is probably due to the bacterium's antibiotic
resistance properties. Klebsiella species may contain resistance plasmids (R-plasmids) which confer
resistance to such antibiotics as ampicillin and carbenicillin. To make matters worse, the R-plasmids
can be transferred to other enteric bacteria not necessarily of the same species.

The state of Virginia doesn't even try to fool the public any more, except, were it makes a mistake.  
72-hundred miles of rivers and streams are contaminated with fecal bacteria and other pollutants. 720
miles don't meet the current bacteria limit.  State regulators say it is impossible to meet the standard,
so they want to raise the limits for bacteria in water. Isn't that strange, even the reporter at
WDBJ 7 in Richond knew,  "People who swallow water with E. coli can suffer from vomiting and

Virginia is one of the states using the 1890
Opinion of Iowa state Judge John Dillon  to justify forcing
counties and sludge disposal site neighbors, as well as city folks,  to accept pathogen contaminated
sewage effluent for beneficial use based on a cheap fecal coliform test for E. coli.  Now, that Judge
didn't know E. coli was a pathogen -- and -- apparently neither do the Virginia Water Board, DEQ, or
Health Department.

According to reporter
Sarah Watson, July 27, 2007, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is
blaming E. coli  river pollution on everything except biosolids.  She reports, "In addition to
agricultural sources of E. coli - such as livestock walking and wading in streams - other major sources
for fecal coliform bacteria in the 20 streams in Falling River’s watershed include failing septic
systems, pipes dumping raw sewage from homes into streams, pet waste and wildlife."

Futhermore, "Though biosolids are cause for concern for many living in the watershed, treated sewage
sludge fertilizer wasn’t calculated into the study plan because the material has a lower bacterium
count than natural soil, the study said."

VHD claims natural soil has over 56 million E. coli bacteria per ounce of soil?? VDH allows 2 million E.
coli per gram of biosolids X 28 = 1 ounce.. Hmm, the original Theory was that E. coli died in the

EPA Virologist -- Microbiologist

Fecal Coliform Question -- Alan Rubin
Retired EPA author of Part 503 Sludge Regulation???

Fecal Coliform Question -- James Smith
Chairman EPA Pathogen Equivalency Committee

Fecal Coliform Question -- Jini Mohanty.    (pronounced GEE-nee; loosely derived from
           the Arabic for magician)
Coliform Question --  Rufus Chaney -- USDA - EPA Debunking

Coliform and the USGS  --  Sheridan Kidd Haack (U.S. Geological Service)


UC Davis -- Coliform or Pathogen?

Land organism
Land organism
Land organism