What are total coliform bacteria?

Total coliform bacteria are a collection of microorganisms that live in large numbers in the intestines of humans and animals, as well as in most soils and surface water. A sub-group of these microorganisms is the fecal coliform bacteria, the most common member being E. coli. These bacteria occur naturally in lakes and streams, but indicate that the water is contaminated with human or animal waste and therefore may pose a health risk to people who drink it. 

The water treatment process removes these bacteria from the water, but events such as a water main break or a loss of pressure in the water distribution system may allow these bacteria to enter water lines through cracks in pipes or back-siphoning from a residential plumbing system. Boiling water vigorously for one minute will kill these bacteria and make water safe to drink.

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1. What is a Boil Water Advisory? Is it the same as a Boil Water Notice?
2. What should I do during a Boil Water Advisory or Notice?
3. Do I still need to boil my water if I have a filter system on my faucet or refrigerator?
4. Is the water safe for washing dishes, laundry, and bathing?
5. How long must a Boil Water Advisory or Notice be in effect?
6. What are total coliform bacteria?
7. How will I be notified if my home/business is affected by an advisory or notice?
8. Under what circumstances will Williamsburg County Water and Sewer issue a Boil Water Advisory or Notice?
9. Why must the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issue a Boil Water Advisory in preparation for a hurricane?
10. How will I know when the advisory or notice has been lifted?
11. Since an advisory is a precautionary measure, will I get sick if I drink the water? What if I drank some water before I found out about the advisory?
12. What are a Do Not Drink Notice and a Do Not Use Notice?