Salmonella in drinking water

Cathal Walsh
Environmental Blogger
Tuesday, 23rd April 2019
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Cow standing on green field at the side of a small river


The main reason people think about salmonella is in the context of food preparation. Did you know however that salmonella can be spread through water as well?  There are many different kinds of salmonella bacteria and they are spread through the faeces of infected humans or animals.

The spread of salmonella is mainly a problem you should be wary of if you are getting your household drinking water from a private well source; outbreaks of salmonella in public mains drinking water are not unheard of however.  There was in 2008 a rather large outbreak of salmonella in public drinking water in Colorado.

Salmonella can cause diarrhoea, fever and stomach pain. Victims typically recover on their own, but the elderly, infants and people with impaired immune systems may require treatment. Untreated, salmonella can cause death in vulnerable victims.

Given that salmonella is spread by human and animal faeces, if one is getting their water source from a private well it is always essential to ensure the top of the well is fully sealed off from all external environmental factors. It is also very important to ensure that no animals are grazing or defecating in the vicinity of the well.

A large factor with salmonella getting into private wells is through sewage. If you have a septic tank in your property it is vital to ensure it is working properly and ensure that it is at least 100 meters from your well.  It is also wise to ensure your well is safe from storm water runoff or agricultural runoff.  Wells may be vulnerable to salmonella contamination after flooding, make sure your well is not submerged by floodwater for any extended period of time and if you are digging a new well, it is best to ensure that the well is not shallow.

If you have any sort of suspicion or hunch that your water may be infected with salmonella it is best not to take a chance. Immediately get a sample of your water to be tested at an accredited testing facility.

To kill the salmonella bacteria and make your water safe to consume, bring the water to a rolling boil for at least a minute before cooling and storing in a clean tightly closed container in a refrigerated environment.  

Remember it is always a good idea to get your water tested regularly for any chemical or bacterial impurities.

Follow the link for an advanced bacteria test.

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